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Winter fieldwork in Varanger, Finnmark and Svalbard

Publisert 03.05.2019

Several COAT modules both in Varnger, Finnmark and in Svalbard have carried out winter fieldwork in March and April. Mainly focusing on the snow pack and its properties.

Digging snow profile next to Torvhaugdalen weather station in Varanger, Finnmark. Photo: Jan Erik Knutsen
Digging snow profile next to Torvhaugdalen weather station in Varanger, Finnmark. Photo: Jan Erik Knutsen

At Varanger, the focus was on snow depth and structure measurements. The snow was generally very hard with many ice layers resulting from mild periods. The hard ground layer most likely resulted from an important mild period in November. These conditions are difficult for small rodents, in particular for lemmings. In both areas we saw tracks of lemmings above the snow, walking over considerable distances and trying unsuccessfully to dig down into the hard snow. Given the situation, the lemming peak possibly expected for next year seems now rather unlikely.

Digging snow profile in Brøggerhalvøya, Svalbard. Photo: Åshild Ønvik Pedersen

Snow pack properties was also measured on Svalbard in both COAT regions. Especially in the Ny-Ålesund area it has been very icy, almost the entire reindeer population behaving like “mountain goats” and grazing at high elevation. Also other kind of field work has been done Svalbard; counting of reindeer and ptarmigans, installation of transmitters on reindeer, installation of sound stations for registration of ptarmigans, and drone-based observations of snowmelt and pilot studies related to food-web interactions between ptarmigan and vegetation

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