Possible rewording: "Solutions for the climate crisis from the Arctic, the region experiencing the most rapid temperature rise on our planet."

Possible rewording: “Solutions for the climate crisis from the Arctic, the region experiencing the most rapid temperature rise on our planet.”

In the Arctic region, access to dependable energy sources can determine survival. One particular community is setting an example with their innovative shift towards renewable energy, considered one of the most distinctive on the planet.

For more than 100 years, the economy of Svalbard, Norway — a group of islands near the North Pole — has revolved around coal mining. But burning coal warms the planet, which contributes to the 

The glaciers in Svalbard are currently melting due to climate change..

The Norwegian government has issued a mandate for Svalbard to shut down its remaining coal mine within a period of two years.

CBS News visited Svalbard, the northernmost community in the world that is experiencing rapid warming. The findings of scientists in this region provide insight into the changes occurring in the United States. As the Arctic continues to warm, it contributes to the increasing sea levels and atmospheric instability that contribute to extreme weather events in our country.

Although Svalbard plans to switch to sustainable energy sources, there is limited information on the effectiveness of wind and solar power in the severe winter climate of the islands, where there are prolonged periods without sunlight.

Alternative energy sources in the Arctic region.

In Svalbard, a frigid and isolated location, any interruption to the off-grid power source may result in the entire population of 2,500 being evacuated to mainland Norway, a distance of 600 miles by boat or plane.

Keeping this in consideration, Store Norske has collaborated with researchers from the University Centre in Svalbard to initiate testing of the most northern solar park in the world, located at Isfjord Radio – a secluded upscale hotel. The hotel is currently powered by diesel fuel generators.

According to Ose, our experience with the technology’s ability to withstand the harsh climate and weather conditions in this region is limited. We have a responsibility to test and confirm its effectiveness in the Arctic climate.

Store Norske has announced impressive outcomes from utilizing 360 solar panels. During the summer months, when the sun is present for 24 hours, the panels provide sufficient energy to run the hotel.

During the spring season, the company discovered that the panels are capable of gathering both direct sunlight and reflected light from the snow. According to Ose, although fuel is still necessary during the complete darkness of winter, the hotel has managed to reduce its diesel usage by 70%.

The upcoming location for testing will be Longyearbyen, a town with a population of 2,500 that is known as the northernmost community on Earth. In October, the town made the switch from coal to diesel fuel at its power plant, although it is still considered a dirty source of energy. The town plans to incorporate renewable energy sources into Longyearbyen’s energy supply once they have been proven effective in the Arctic climate.

Aside from Longyearbyen, there are roughly 1,500 settlements located above the Arctic Circle where individuals reside without access to traditional electricity sources. Store Norske intends to market their sustainable energy options to these communities, which span across Canada and Alaska.

Anna Sjöblom, a meteorologist from the University Centre in Svalbard, who is working on the project, stated that combining all 1,500 communities would create a significant impact.

Avalanche protection technology

In addition to sustainable energy, Longyearbyen has also become a hub for the development of innovative technology by Store Norske and the University Centre in Svalbard to predict the danger of avalanches to the community’s safety.

Although winters are typically frigid, snowfall tends to be minimal. However, in January 2015, the island was hit with a severe storm that brought strong winds and heavy snowfall. Some areas received more than 16 feet of snow in just 12 hours.

These rare conditions triggered an avalanche on one of the town’s mountains — the first to ever do serious damage to Longyearbyen. The snow ripped homes off their foundations and left them in a pile. Two people died, including a young girl.

“I remember the girl,” recalled Line Nagell Ylvisåker, Editor of the Svalbard Post newspaper. “She went to kindergarten with my daughter. It was difficult to comprehend that it happened because we were so close.”

After the devastating avalanche, Martin Indreiten from the Artic Safety Center at the University Centre in Svalbard has taken charge in protecting the community from potential avalanches in the future.

Indreiten stated that the likelihood of an avalanche has traditionally been greatest in the spring season. However, due to the warming of Svalbard, they can now occur at other times of the year as well.

Indreiten said

“It’s the lack of certainty,” stated Indreiten. “You are unaware,” he continued.

Norway spent $25 million to build a dam at the bottom of the mountain to stop tumbling snow and protect the town. Higher up on the mountain, it built avalanche fences that help keep the snow from sliding down.

Indreiten and his team collaborated with the Norwegian mobile company Telenor to create a low-cost snow sensor as part of an early-warning system, providing people with ample time to evacuate.

The instruments are placed in distant areas. They reflect a ray off the snow to determine its thickness and transmit hundreds of readings per day. Each instrument has a battery life of 10 years and is priced at $600.


Researchers developed a preemptive alert system to warn of potential avalanche danger, allowing individuals to safely evacuate in advance.

CBS News

Indreiten stated that we are obtaining desired information from desired sources at a low cost, making it accessible to many.

Avalanches pose a significant issue in various communities globally. The National Avalanche Center reports that in the United States alone, 25 to 30 individuals perish in avalanches every winter, with the majority occurring within national forests.

Indreiten is optimistic about the potential global applications of the new technology. It has already been implemented in a different community in mainland Norway that is at risk of avalanches.

Indreiten suggested that with improved forecasting tools, we could relocate individuals to safety when deemed necessary.

Explore the effects of climate change on communities across the country through an interactive web page showcasing Svalbard, Norway.

Meet our experts

Martin Indreiten worked together with others to create a system that can warn people in Longyearbyen about potential avalanches. The Arctic Safety Center, where Indreiten works, made cheap sensors to measure the amount of snow on steep slopes in the town. These sensors send back many measurements every day, which helps safety managers understand the risk of avalanches and when they should tell people to leave. Indreiten thinks that other communities at risk for avalanches can also use this technology that was made in Svalbard.



Source: cbsnews.com