Longyearbyen avalanche death prevention work must continue / Columns / The Foreigner

Longyearbyen avalanche death prevention work must continue. Avalanches struck Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 19 December, killing two people and destroying several homes. The danger and evacuations continued for days afterwards. One question inevitably asked is: Did climate change play a role? The correct answer is: It does not matter.

avalanche, longyearbyen, svalbard



The Foreigner Logo

The Foreigner is an online publication for English speakers living or who have an interest in Norway. Whether it’s a glimpse of news or entertainment you’re after, there’s no need to leave your linguistic armchair. You don’t need to cry over the demise of the English pages of Aftenposten.no, The Foreigner is here!

Norske nyheter på engelsk fra Norge. The Foreigner er en engelskspråklig internett avis for de som bor eller som er interessert i Norge.

Google+ Google+ Twitter Facebook RSS RSS



Columns Article

LATEST:

Longyearbyen avalanche death prevention work must continue

Published on Wednesday, 6th January, 2016 at 21:49 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Avalanches struck Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 19 December, killing two people and destroying several homes.

Longyearbyen surrounded by mountains
Longyearbyen surrounded by mountains
Photo: Ilan Kelman


The danger and evacuations continued for days afterwards.

One question inevitably asked is: Did climate change play a role? The correct answer is: It does not matter.

With or without climate change, we know that avalanches happen on mountains and that mountains surround Longyearbyen. Considering avalanches should be standard practice for settlements near snowy peaks.

Researchers have done so for Longyearbyen. A recent doctoral dissertation examines how climate influences these avalanches. The unsurprising conclusion is that it is complicated.

Then why do we suddenly see a major avalanche disaster rather than simply an avalanche? The PhD thesis provides insight in noting that "the development of the city" means "the exposure of the people and the infrastructures to snow avalanches is becoming a concern".

People have not lived in the ruined houses, or in Longyearbyen, for very long. The town was officially founded just over a century ago, but few buildings are older than World War II. Most are much more recent.

December's deadly slide might be a common occurrence, perhaps with dozens of such avalanches each millennium. We would not know. Without people and buildings in the danger zone, we had little reason to worry.

Post-disaster, we now realise the caution needed. This need for caution existed before, and would exist irrespective of, climate change.

No matter what climate change does or does not do, we can and should still work to prevent avalanche deaths in Longyearbyen.

Ilan Kelman is a Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health at University College London.




Published on Wednesday, 6th January, 2016 at 21:49 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: avalanche, longyearbyen, svalbard.





  
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!