spring 2023
GEO-3139 Snow Avalanche Science and Management - 10 ECTS

Application deadline

Applicants from countries within EU/EEA:: 1 December for the spring semester.

Exchange students and Fulbright students: 1 October for the spring semester.

UiT Students: 1 February for the spring semester.

Type of course

This course is available as a single course.

Admission requirements

Bachelor's degree in geology, or a similar degree following a programme of study of at least three years, or similar education approved in accordance with the Norwegian Universities Act section 3-4. In addition, specialization in geology worth the equivalent of at least 80 ECTS credits is required. Normally, an average mark of C or better is required at the bachelor's degree level or other program for basis of admission.

Application code: 9371.

Obligatory prerequisites

MAT-0001 Calculus in Applicationsor FYS-0001 Applied physics

Course content

The course is about the technical aspects of snow avalanches from snow in the clouds, processes in the snowpack, avalanche formation, avalanche movements and dynamics, mitigation and avalanche forecasting. The course gives an understanding of all the physical processes of avalanches as a natural hazard, as well as management and mitigation strategies.The students learn about meteorology that leads to snow precipitation, physics of snow on the ground, snow mechanical behaviour and fracture mechanics, and avalanche release. The movement of avalanches will be described with the help of a simple block model. Statistical and dynamic avalanche models are used to describe avalanche runout, velocities and pressure. A review of mitigation measures and avalanche forecasting will demonstrate methods of avalanche risk management. The acquired knowledge will be applied in the assessment of avalanche hazard in selected settlements around Tromsø. Students will spend one week in the field visiting snow avalanche sites, study risk management for roads and study snow properties and processes in the mountains.

Recommended prerequisites

GEO-2011 GIS and geostatistics, GEO-2015 Introduction to snow and avalanche science

Objectives of the course


The student has:

  • Knowledge of basic meteorology and the physical process of snow formation
  • Knowledge of the physics in snow on the ground, and how to describe snowpack properties
  • Understanding how snowpack properties affect the mechanical behaviour and when this leads to snow avalanches
  • Knowledge and understanding of snow avalanche movement and dynamics to estimate velocities, pressure and runout
  • Knowledge on avalanche -object interaction
  • Knowledge of how snow avalanche warning systems function
  • Knowledge of different mitigation measures used in snow avalanche protection, and understand how the different measures may be selected and applied


The student can:

  • Identify and distinguish avalanche terrain
  • Recognise different snow avalanche types and their meteorological and other triggers
  • Use advanced knowledge and field skills to assess the potential mechanical behaviour of a snowpack to determine if an avalanche will occur
  • Use a statistical avalanche model to estimate the runout length
  • Use a basic block model to calculate snow avalanche velocities
  • Use a dynamic avalanche model to calculate avalanche dynamics in two dimensions
  • Detailed interpretation of local forecasting systems and snow pack assessments to determine physical safety in the mountains
  • Suggest mitigation measures for a given site
  • Produce a basic hazard assessment following the Norwegian guidelines in tek17

General competence

The student can:

  • Recognise, assess, quantify and communicate the hazard posed by avalanches to human infrastructure and settlements
  • Use the correct terminology to describe the snow pack and different types of snow avalanches
  • Solve a basic problem of avalanche terrain, snow pack stability and model runout behaviour
  • Communicate the national regulations for snow avalanche hazard management and make basic recommendations about management approaches

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

The course is in a block format and consists of two weeks of class time (70 hours) followed by a one-week excursion (40 hours). The students are expected to spend up to 25 hours outside of class working on their final report following the block weeks.

Information to incoming exchange students

This course is open for inbound exchange student who meets the admission requirements, including prerequisites. Please see the Admission requirements" and the "Prerequisite" sections for more information.

Do you have questions about this course? Please check the following website to contact the course coordinator for exchange students at the faculty:

International admissions | UiT



Examination: Date: Weighting: Grade scale:
Oral exam 1/4 A–E, fail F
Off campus exam 20.03.2023 08:00 (Hand out)
14.04.2023 13:00 (Hand in)
3/4 A–E, fail F

Coursework requirements:

To take an examination, the student must have passed the following coursework requirements:

Non-assessed exercises during the teaching week Approved – not approved
Participation in the field course Approved – not approved
UiT Exams homepage

More info about the coursework requirements

Approval of training in health, safety, and environment at the beginning of the field course. This includes the use of high-visibility safety vests and snow safety equipment (beacon, probe and shovel) in the field.

Admittance to the exam is granted when the following are approved:

  • Non-assessed exercises during the teaching week
  • Participation in the field course

Re-sit examination

A re-sit examination for students that did not pass the previous ordinary exam will not be arranged.
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: GEO-3139
  • Tidligere år og semester for dette emnet