The Jonassen-Christiansen team is working towards developing an advanced permafrost and meteorological climate change response system in order to build resilience in Arctic communities, starting with their own home community.

Tell us about the journey leading up to winning this award. How did your project get started?

“Having lived for ten and twenty years, respectively, in the Arctic in the small settlement of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, and having studied and worked as scientists at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), we passionately care about how the society we are living in is functioning, and also how it is handling the effects of the recent large warming that have occurred.

In 2016, when two autumn rainstorms caused landsliding affecting the infrastructure and the local authorities called for immediate assistance from us, it became very clear that our scientific knowledge is directly useful for figuring out how to handle and ensure the safe operation of a society at 78°N during the ongoing climatic changes. This led us to develop the PermaMeteoCommunity project which only started last year in 2021.”

What difference will the award make for your project?

“Winning the FP Award is a huge honour for us. It enables us to make more of our dreams come true in terms of studying and observing the permafrost and weather in the Arctic landscape here in Svalbard. The award will allow us to enhance our monitoring system by adding valuable, additional data using cutting-edge modelling and remote sensing technology, to have more students involved, and to increase international collaboration. In summary, it will strongly support us in developing a much safer way of living with climatic changes here in Svalbard.”

What kind of future do you envision for your project and its practical applications? How do you plan to use the UArctic network going forward?

“We sincerely expect that the work we put into establishing the permafrost and meteorological climate response system here in Longyearbyen will provide a critical tool for authorities to handle the climatic changes on the infrastructure and thus on society. We also expect that this new tool will be very important for further developing the routines for handling preparedness situations caused by e.g. extreme weather events such as autumn rainstorms.

Our dream is for the response system that we develop now to be also used and tested in other Arctic settlements with permafrost and thus the same type of challenges; that could mean Greenland, Canada and/or Alaska, or elsewhere in the Arctic. We wish to collaborate with communities, scientists and students living or working in other Arctic permafrost areas. Such collaboration can happen through the UArctic Thematic Network on Permafrost and other UArctic venues.”


To learn more about the PermaMeteoCommunity project and visit one of the project sites, watch the video Marius and Hanne shot on site in Longyearbyen, Svalbard