Our sites & infrastructure

Our study sites and test glaciers

The CRIOS project is designed to optimize the use of Polish and Norwegian research infrastructure established in Svalbard. Three permanently populated sites (Level I monitoring stations) – Longyearbyen (LYR), Ny-Alesund (NyA) and the Polish Polar Station in Hornsund (HOR) – are capable of maintenance and energy supply to the most sophisticated monitoring devices. Additionally, four Polish stations operating in summer seasons (Level II monitoring stations) provide an excellent opportunity to monitor glacier change and snow conditions over a large area of Spitsbergen. For the location of individual sites see the figure below.

Location of the monitoring sites. Level I (red triangles): NyA – Ny-Ålesund, LYR – Longyearbyen, HOR – Hornsund. Level II (blue triangles): KAF/WDR – Kaffiøyra and Waldemarbreen, PTN/SVN – Petuniabukta and Svenbreen, CLP/RND – Calypsobyen and Renardbreen, ELV/WRN – Elveflya and Werenskioldbreen.

A large part of the fieldwork within the CRIOS project is scheduled for glacier research. All of the glaciers selected for direct monitoring have been losing mass over the past century. These are:


Type: valley glacier, tidewater
Location: Hornsund (HOR), S Spitsbergen (see at TopoSvalbard)
Area: ~54 km2
Elevation range: 0-500 m a.s.l.
Hansbreen has been studied in great detail since the 1980s and is now one of the best-studied marine-terminating glaciers in the entire Arctic. Continuous mass balance record since 1989. Under the supervision of the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, and the Polish Academy of Sciences. Browse Google Scholar for previous research >>>

Werenskioldbreen (WRN)

Type: valley glacier, land-terminating
Location: Elveflya (ELV), SW Spitsbergen (see at TopoSvalbard)
Area: ~26 km2
Elevation range: 50-650 m a.s.l.
Werenskioldbreen belongs to well-studied glaciers in Svalbard and has been in the focus of the early Polish glacier investigations since the 1950s. The glacier has many years of surface mass balance and meteorological records. Glaciological studies have been performed under the supervision of the University of Wrocław, Poland, and the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. Browse Google Scholar for previous research >>>

Waldemarbreen (WDR)

Type: valley glacier, land-terminating
Location: Kaffioyra (KFR), NW Spitsbergen (see at TopoSvalbard)
Area: ~2 km2
Elevation range: 140-500 m a.s.l.
Waldemarbreen is among the well-studied glaciers in Svalbard. It is known to have been losing mass at a great pace over the past decades. The glacier has continuous surface mass balance record since 1996. Under the supervision of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. Browse Google Scholar for previous research >>>

Renardbreen (RND)

Type: valley glacier, land-terminating
Location: Calypsobyen (CLP), SW Spitsbergen (see at TopoSvalbard)
Area: ~30 km2
Elevation range: 20-750 m a.s.l.
Renardbreen and its vicinity have been previously subjected mainly to geomorphological, geological and geochemical research so the CRIOS project will bring new information about its state and glaciological characteristics. Under the supervision of the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. Browse Google Scholar for previous research >>>

Svenbreen (SVN)

Type: valley glacier, land-terminating
Location: Petuniabukta (PTN), central Spitsbergen (see at TopoSvalbard)
Area: ~3.5 km2
Elevation range: 180-700 m a.s.l.
Svenbreen is the only study glacier within the CRIOS project located outside of the western coast of Spitsbergen. The glacier has a continuous surface mass balance record since 2010 and a meteorological timeseries since 2011. Under the supervision of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. Browse Google Scholar for previous research >>>

Monitoring infrastructure

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Glacier and snow monitoring

Ultrasonic sensors for measuring accumulation and ablation of snow and ice.

  • Snow depth and glacier mass change are considered Essential Climate Variables in the cryosphere domain. Regular snow depth and ice ablation measurements are performed manually, which limits the resolution of the data sets. With automatic sensors, we can get insight into both snow accumulation and snow and ice melt dynamics with unprecedented temporal resolution. High-resolution data on snow and ice are much-needed forcing for the cryosphere-related models.
  • The device measures distance to the surface of snow/ice with an ultrasonic sensor coupled with a thermistor. Additionally, it is equipped with humidity and air pressure sensors.  Data are recorded on the internal memory card. The sensor can wirelessly communicate over the LoRaWAN transmission protocol. 

Portable sensors for snow density/liquid water content

  • Among the assessment of the physical features of seasonal snow cover, the simple measurement of the liquid water content in snow presents the highest degree of uncertainty. The use of a dedicated electronic sensor increases the measurement accuracy several times. Additionally, the reliable measurement of snow density will improve the mass balance 
  • The device measures the density (ρ) or the liquid water content (LWC) of snow with a capacitive sensor, which generates an electrical field permeating the snow. The calculation is based on the measured capacitance changes between ice, air and water, which have different dielectric properties.

Meteorological monitoring

Automatic Weather Stations

  • AWS will be equipped with dataloggers and the following sensors: atmospheric pressure, air temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and solar radiation. Digital datalogger must be equipped with memory and an independent energy supply allowing the operation for at least a year in Arctic conditions. The installation of a weather station is planned at each selected site. The Iridium satellite system will automatically transfer the data. It will be the first time in these areas.

Eddy Covariance System

  • Thawing permafrost is one of the most important global sources of carbonaceous greenhouse gases (CO2 & CH4). Eddy Covariance systems will be used to establish baseline ecosystem fluxes of CO2 and potentially CH4 from the monitored sites. These baseline fluxes will then be related to meteorological and hydrological conditions to determine the effects of short-term weather variability and extreme events on ecosystem-scale carbon flux in high latitudes. Long-term observational trends in meteorological and hydrological conditions, together with the functional relationship between short-term variability on CO2 and CH4 fluxes, will allow us to calibrate models and extrapolate emissions trends into the future. 
  • In the Eddy Covariance system targeting greenhouse gases, data on fluxes of CO2, methane (CH4), water vapour (H2O) as well as heat are collected together with 3D high-frequency wind records to understand processes behind the exchange dynamics. From the technical point of view, the EC method is based on simplifications of the mass balance equation and its integration over a control volume which extends horizontally on a representative surface and vertically from the soil level to the measurement height. One station is planned in Hornsund and one station in Adventdalen, Longyearbyen.

Permafrost monitoring

System of thermistors (temperature strings with loggers) to monitor the ground thermal state 

  • Precise data on the thermal state of the frozen ground is one of the key missing components of the environmental monitoring at the research stations spread across Spitsbergen. The CRIOS project will allow us to equip the newly established borehole with precise temperature strings that will record ground thermal changes over the next couple of years. 
  • A system of temperature strings will be used in the monitoring of the thermal state of permafrost in drilled boreholes. Devices were tested in severe weather and are commonly used for permafrost monitoring by other research groups working in polar regions.

Portable permafrost drilling system – the extension of the existing system to allow 10 m drilling

  • A resistant drilling system is needed for borehole drilling, which will be equipped for the permafrost thermal monitoring programme. The purchase of drilling equipment was discussed with prof. Vieira who coordinated the borehole drilling project in the Antarctic, and Dr Tolle was responsible for drilling permafrost in Ny-Ålesund. CRIOS funding will allow us to extend the drilling capabilities of our permafrost drilling system using parts recommended by scientific partners, including parts of the drilling hammer, a set of drilling rods 5-10 m long, installation tools, a new set of diamond drill bits, new aluminium boxes for transportation.

Remote sensing-based monitoring

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • Drones are invaluable during work in areas inaccessible for manned fieldwork. They allow obtaining data from high-risk areas, such as crevassed parts of glaciers, the vicinity of their cliffs or areas with high avalanche risk. In addition, they are filling the gap between ground measurements and the aerial and satellite level.
  • A dedicated multirotor platform enabling stable operation in polar areas – resistant to changing weather conditions and low air temperature. It will be equipped with modern sensors, such as multispectral, thermal, Lidar, GPR, etc.

Aerial and high-resolution satellite data

  • Remote sensing data enables continuous observations of large areas at the same time. An annual subscription to high-resolution satellite data will capture seasonal changes in the rapidly changing Arctic environment.

Time-lapse cameras

  • In order to determine the state of coverage of the area, e.g. period of snow cover on a tundra, the extent of the glacier front, etc., it is necessary to perform photographic imaging at a specific time interval. This will allow for precise diagnosis of snow conditions.

InSAR corner reflectors

  • Radar corner reflectors are the permanent installation for calibrating the radar satellite imagery and terrestrial laser scanning. The selected locations are unique and crucial for developing remote sensing methods on Svalbard.

GNSS monitoring

  • GNSS monitoring station equipped with: precise geodetic class multi-frequency and multi constellation GNSS receiver, multi constellation precise GNSS antenna (Choke Ring type), additional equipment (low loss RF cable, power supply, antenna mounting mast/pole).
  • The purpose of installing GNSS monitoring stations is to apply a Global Navigation Satellite System Interferometric Reflectometry (GNSS-IR) technique for determining snow cover characteristics, such as snow depth and snow water equivalent. GNSS-IR method enables automatic and continuous remote sensing of snow cover in a large area around the monitoring station.
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