Item: Cornice dynamics above nybyen in svalbards high arctic landscape
Title: Cornice dynamics above nybyen in svalbards high arctic landscape
Proceedings: 2010 International Snow Science Workshop
Authors: S. Vogel 1,2, M. Eckerstorfer 1, H. H. Christiansen 1,2 1 Arctic Geology Department, University Centre in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway 2 Physical Geography Department, Universitetet I Oslo, Norway
Abstract: The development of cornices, their cracking and consequent failures largely controlled by meteorology along the Gruvefjellet plateau ridge was investigated in the two consecutive snow seasons of 2009 and 2010. These natural processes endanger life and infrastructure in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s main settlement in the High Arctic. Two automatic time lapse cameras provided up to 6 daily pictures of the entire Gruvefjellet slope from the valley bottom and monitored the cornice development and tension cracking from the ridgeline. Furthermore stakes on the plateau were used to record snow depth distribution and cornice growth. 45 field trips up the plateau were carried out to study the processes and to manually measure cornice crack opening rates. Meteorological data were recorded by an automatic weather station situated on the Gruvefjellet plateau source area. Both snow seasons indicated that cornices were built up by a low number of distinct storm events and that cornice scouring due to high wind speeds is rather limited. In 2009 the first cornice cracks were observed in mid April, while in 2010, probably due to persistent warm weather in combination with large amounts of rain, cornice cracks were already developing at the end of January. Cornice crack measurements showed a linear development, indicating the major influence of gravity. 177 cornice failures have been recorded, whereof 11 were “D3-R3” and “D3-R4” avalanches which nearly reached housing infrastructure. Cornice fall avalanches occurred throughout the entire snow season, though the majority was released towards May/June due to temperatures above freezing and 24 hours direct solar radiation.
Keywords: high arctic landscape, solar radiation, snow seasons