Meteorology course at the University centre in Svalbard

April 2016




From January 27th to March 14th 2016 I was fortunate enough to attend a meteorology course at the University centre in Svalbard (UNIS) in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The course: ‘The Arctic Atmospheric Boundary Layer and Local Climate Processes’, covered a large aspect of boundary layer meteorology including turbulence, sea-ice-land fluxes, instrumentation and observation of the surface layer, and small scale features.

The first week of the course included mandatory riffle practice and snowmobile lessons. Due to the proximity of Longyearbyen to sea ice and the ocean, Polar Bears can be a frequent visitor. Therefore you must carry a riffle when leaving the main town area, including for fieldwork. To get to the remote, ice covered locations for fieldwork, we had to learn how to ride a snowmobile- think quadbike on skis. Following this, we had a number of lectures and talks focusing on the importance of safe fieldwork, and instructing us on how to carry out fieldwork in the Arctic. The nine days of fieldwork was carried out in Adventdalen, and included deployment of automatic weather stations, sonic instruments for turbulence observations and daily tethersonde and UAV launches. As the airport operates within the valley we were located in, we could only carry out our fieldwork after working hours- 4pm to midnight. Following fieldwork, the following 3.5 weeks focused on data analysis, interpretation of results, and presenting the results. We had to write a 10 page report on a specific topic; mine was to investigate the formation of cold air pools within the valleys. This was also supplemented with daily lectures from guest lectures from all over the world, including leading scientists from Finland, Norway, USA and UK. This gave excellent opportunities to learn from the best, pick their brains over questions and discuss my PhD topic with them.

Overall, I learned much more than just the course material provided within lectures. I now understand how to plan and undertake fieldwork within the Polar Regions, and how to tackle problems such as loss of data, power cuts and getting stuck in slush! I also had the opportunity to communicate with scientists from a number of institutions and gain some external insight into my PhD project.

None of this would have been possible without the generous funding provided by the Legacies fund from the Royal Meteorological Society. As Svalbard is very isolated, it is expensive to travel there and living expenses are high. The funding allowed me to travel to and from Longyearbyen, pay the semester fee to the University and pay for my accommodation and food for seven weeks.  I have been a student member of the RMetS since my undergraduate, and will continue to be part of it for many years to come. I am a student ambassador for the society, and am also a committee member for the student conference.