Refining knowledge about snow avalanches

Refining knowledge about snow avalanches

Top image: PhD candidate Holt Hancock making snow observations in Fardalen outside Longyearbyen in 2019. Photo: Martin Indreiten/UNIS.

PhD candidate Holt Hancock has investigated snow avalanche processes across a range of spatial and temporal scales in Svalbard and placed the results in the context of improved hazard management. Hancock will defend his PhD thesis on 10 September 2021.

3 September 2021
Press release from the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the University of Oslo

Snow avalanches present a common natural hazard in snow-covered mountainous areas throughout the world. However, most snow avalanche research has taken place in mid-latitude locations, thereby limiting knowledge of avalanche processes in polar regions. Highlighting the need for better avalanche knowledge and improved hazard management in high-latitude settings, an avalanche struck Longyearbyen, Svalbard in December 2015, destroying 11 houses and killing two residents in their homes.

Holt Hancock’s thesis therefore investigates snow avalanche processes across a range of spatial and temporal scales in Svalbard and places the results in the context of improved hazard management. Primary contributions from this research include:

1) employing and further developing terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) techniques to illustrate and quantify how specific meteorological conditions control snow distribution and avalanche activity at the slope and catchment spatial scales near Longyearbyen, and

2) investigating the broader-scale meteorological controls on avalanche activity in Svalbard’s rapidly changing climate.

Results from this work help refine the understanding of how snow and wind associated with winter storms serve as key controls on snow avalanches in Svalbard and contribute to increased available information for future avalanche research, avalanche protection, and avalanche warning in Svalbard and other areas in the Arctic.

Disputation

Holt Hancock will defend his PhD thesis entitled “Snow avalanche controls, monitoring strategies, and hazard management in Svalbard” on Friday 10 September at 15:00 on Zoom at the University of Oslo.

More information on the disputation (University of Oslo).

 

Holt Hancock, PhD candidate at UNIS

Holt Hancock. Photo: Private.

About the candidate

Holt Hancock grew up in Montana, USA and studied snow science as an undergraduate and graduate student at Montana State University. He was lucky enough to conduct the fieldwork for his master’s thesis at UNIS. Holt took the opportunity to continue studying at UNIS as a PhD student in the Arctic Geology Department in 2016 and has been here since.

Contact information: holth@unis.no.

 

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