Snow research in Svalbard–an overview

  • Jan-Gunnar Winther
  • Oddbjørn Bruland
  • Knut Sand
  • Sebastian Gerland
  • David Marechal
  • Boris Ivanov
  • Piotr Gøowacki
  • Max König


This paper summarizes the most significant snow-related research that has been conducted in Svalbard. Most of the research has been performed during the 1990s and includes investigations of snow distribution, snow-melt, snow pack characteristics, remote sensing of snow and biological studies where snow conditions play an important role. For example, studies have shown regional trends with about 50% higher amounts of snow accumulation at the east coast of Spitsbergen compared to the west coast. Further, the accumulation rates are about twice as high in the south compared to the north. On average, the increase in accumulation with elevation is 97 mm water equivalents per 100 m increase in elevation. Several researchers reported melt rates, which are primarily driven by incoming short-wave radiation, in the range of 10-20 mm/day during spring. Maximum melt rates close to 70 mm/day have been measured. In addition to presenting an overview of research activities, we discuss new, unpublished results in areas where considerable progress is being made. These are i) modelling of snow distribution, ii) modelling of snowmelt runoff and iii) monitoring of snow coverage by satellite imagery. We also identify some weaknesses in current research activities. They are lacks of i) integration between various studies, ii) comparative studies with other Arctic regions, iii) applying local field studies in models that can be used to study larger areas of Svalbard and, finally, iv) using satellite remote sensing data for operational monitoring purposes.


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How to Cite
Winther, J.-G., Bruland, O., Sand, K., Gerland, S., Marechal, D., Ivanov, B., Gøowacki, P., & König, M. (2003). Snow research in Svalbard–an overview. Polar Research, 22(2), 125-144.
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