Navigating snow avalanche risks in Troms – Norway

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The Far North

Nestled in one of the most remote corners of Europe, the Troms region in northern Norway stands as a testament to nature’s raw and untamed beauty. With a sparse population density of about 7 people per square kilometer—less than half the national average—this area offers a unique blend of serenity and isolation. Tromsø and Harstad, the two largest towns, house more than half of Troms’ 170,000 inhabitants, leaving numerous smaller settlements scattered across the region. These communities rely heavily on road access for their essential supplies, making them particularly vulnerable to the harsh Arctic climate and its accompanying natural hazards.

Despite its remote location, northern Norway is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists. Each year, more visitors are drawn to Tromsø’s stunning mountain landscapes and the enchanting northern lights. The high latitude ensures excellent snow and skiing conditions well into May, while the midnight sun provides continuous daylight, allowing for skiing adventures long after other parts of Europe have succumbed to summer’s heat.

The Avalanche Problem

However, the same beautiful mountains and long, snowy winters that attract tourists also pose a significant natural hazard: snow avalanches. For the small settlements in Troms, avalanches can disrupt crucial road access, preventing the delivery of food and other essential provisions. Even preventative road closures to avert potential avalanches can isolate these communities. Skiers, too, face the peril of avalanches, with tragic accidents resulting in injuries or even fatalities almost every year.

… in a Warming Climate

The Arctic, including the Troms region, is experiencing pronounced warming trends, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Despite this, our understanding of how global warming will affect future avalanche risk remains limited. Warmer temperatures might reduce snowpack stability, leading to more frequent avalanches. Conversely, higher temperatures could result in less overall snowfall, potentially reducing avalanche occurrences. This uncertainty complicates future planning and risk management for the Troms region.

Future Projections of Avalanche Risk

IMPETUS partners at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), are committed to reducing this uncertainty. Their goal is to provide local stakeholders and residents with clear, accessible future scenarios regarding changes in avalanche risk. By training statistical models to correlate avalanche risk with weather data, they can identify conditions that elevate avalanche danger. These models are then applied to outputs from climate models simulating future climate change scenarios, allowing them to predict how avalanche risk may evolve.

Through this work, the aim is to offer a clearer picture of northern Norway’s future in terms of avalanche risk. By understanding these potential changes, communities and policymakers can better prepare for and mitigate the impacts of this natural hazard, ensuring the safety and resilience of the Troms region.

Sources: Store norske leksikon: Troms

Read more about IMEPTUS solution being developed in the Arctic Region


High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations.

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."


Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.


Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."


Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 


Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.


The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.