1 - Chemical and physical process in the low atmosphereStudies of the atmospheric boundary layer provide parameterizations of surface-atmosphere fluxes and reconstruction of the atmospheric vertical profiles for different stability conditions to support the understanding of the vertical distribution of aerosol and pollutant.

The atmospheric aerosol is an important pathway by which chemical compounds are transported both locally and on a global scale. At the ground, aerosol measurements allow to investigate natural and anthropogenic sources highlight and apportion the natural and anthropic sources and transport processes. Tethered balloon is a valuable tool for profiling black carbon (BC) concentration, aerosol size distribution, aerosol scattering coefficients, and chemical composition.

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2 - Soil, permafrost and geologyThe total frost heave (FH) at each stake was monitored by measuring the difference between the original heigth of 1.2m from the surface and the observed heigth from the surface of each stake at the beginning of each summer.

At each node of the grid was installed also a plot (1x1 m) for the long-term monitoring of vegetation. Every summer the vegetation was monitored at each plot (1x1 m) at each node performing a phytosociological relevés according to the Braun-Blanquet method allowing to provide information on the community structure, coverage, species richness and composition.

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3 - Glaciology, snow and iceThe snow chemical composition and the main physical parameters aim to identify the interannual variability of the seasonal snowpack. Deposition paths of anthropogenic contaminants (organic and inorganics), trace elements, halogens, amino acid and major ions in the glaciers surrounding the Kongsfjord area are also evaluate. The research sampling strategy are based on the collection of surfaces, stratigraphic and bulk samples of the annual snow layer and shallow ice core. In order to investigate snow driven natural geochemical cycle of specific inorganics and organics contaminant, specific surface snow sampling protocols are adopted to relate meteorological process and contaminants deposition mainly during the Artic spring.

The dynamic of glaciers melting and the transfer of freshwater and suspended solids towards the Kongsfjorden are also investigated and quantified by performing flow rate measurements of glacial drainages, as well as isotopic and physical-chemical monitoring of inland meltwaters and waters in the fjord.

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4 - Terrestrial ecosystem and biodiversityMultidisciplinary approaches, including biogeochemical studies, ecology, plant physiology, soil microbiology and chemistry and modelling, are combined with litter and air isotope composition analysis and gas/vapour flux measurements. Litter manipulation experimental plots allow to create variability in the microclimatic conditions, plant species and plant biomass inputs to study variations in the active layer depth. Gas exchange measurements (water and CO2), phenology surveys and biogeochemical and isotopic analyses of above- and below-ground components allow to characterize the carbon cycle in the Arctic environment, predicting its potential variations with the changing climate. In addition, the capacity of the biological soil crusts (BCS) to promote primary colonization in fragile habitats as those subjected to extreme climates are studied. The BCS are important reservoirs of carbon and nutrients and mediate flows of energy and matter through the transition between pedosphere and atmosphere. A full Critical Zone observatory is being built in the area around the Bayelva catchment, with the goal of characterizing the response of the rock-soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum to changes in climatic and environmental conditions.

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5 - Oceanographic and marine research Melting of tidewater glaciers’ ice tongues produces big changes in Kongsfjorden. An instrumented mooring, named Mooring Dirigibile Italia (MDI), is permanently deployed in the inner part of the Kongsfjiorden at about 100 m depth with the aim to measure the basic physical properties of water and investigate particle fluxes and their composition. MDI allows to continuously monitor variations of thermohaline characteristics of a) surface water by the glacier melting, b) intermediate water by variable intrusion of Atlantic-type water, and c) bottom water locally produced during winter. Information on sedimentary processes and interactions with microzooplankton, glaciers and enhanced coastal runoff is gained by collecting particles sinking in the water column. Variability of the physical properties of water in the fjord are supported also by regular CTD survey.

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The polar oceans are the final sink for many semi-volatile organic contaminants. The study of the composition of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) and the occurrence of organic contaminants describes the circulation of nutrients and the impact of allochthonous sources on the marine ecosystem. Data from acoustic recordings allow to collect information about biological activities of species producing sound (fish, marine mammals, crustaceans) and ice dynamics. Multi- and interdisciplinary studies addresses to the short-term evaluation of microbial and biogeochemical trends along the water column.

The shallow waters fish community of the Kongsfjorden are investigated by a combination of direct visual census and biological sampling. Kongsfjorden is a good example of transition zone, and an ideal natural laboratory to study the potential influence of hydrographic regime shifts on the local fish fauna and ecosystems.

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7 - ICT and technological innovationMarine and aerial robotic autonomous vehicles with sensors and samplers that will be used for perfoming atmospheric, sea-ice and underwater data collection in areas either difficult to access or not accessible to human beings. This activity performed with P2-ROV/POP USSV and Italdron 8HSE and with CNR PROTEUS USSV (Unmanned Semi-Submersible Vehicle) built by CNR-ISSIA can support several other research groups of CNR on sea in the front of the glaciers facing the Kongsfjord.

Other technogical innovation is represented by use of transportable equipment developed by the Italian Institute of Metrology that include travelling standards, for the calibration of sensors operating in the field, without removing them from the site.

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Since 1999, ITACA (ITalian Allsky Camera for Aurora observations) is monitoring the high-latitude aural activity from Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard) during the wintertime, at three reference wavelengths (427.8 nm, 557.7nm, 630.0 nm). It participates to the MIRACLE (Magnetometers - Ionospheric Radars - Allsky Cameras Large Experiment) international network, devoted to mesoscale studies of the auroral activity.

The Svalbard islands provide a very effective site for launching long-duration circumpolar stratospheric balloons. ASI, ARR, SSC, ISTAR have launched stratospheric balloons of various sizes and with different durations, with payloads devoted to Cosmic Microwave Background radiation studies and other science targets.

List of the Research activities


Processes in the low atmosphere

Soil, permafrost and geology

Glaciology, snow and ice

Terrestrial ecosystem and biodiversity

Oceanographic and marine research

Marine biology and biodiversity

ICT and technological innovation

Sun-Earth relations and high atmosphere

CNR - National Research Council - Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies - Piazzale Aldo Moro, 7 - 00185 Rome - ITALY - E-Mail: angelopietro.viola AT

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