Internationsl Centre for Reindeer HusbandryASsociation of World Reindeer Herderssa-sucAbout Reindeer Husbandry
Interview: Dagrun Vikhamar Schuler
Written by Philip Burgess   
Thursday, 28 May 2009 01:21
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dagrunDagrun Vikhamar Schuler is a researcher with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo. She works closely with Inger Marie Gaup Eira in EALAT Work Package 1. She works primarily with modelling - using the Snowpack program to model layers in the snow pack, using data from Kautokeino and Karasjok. The image below is a sample of the Snowpack software - showing the development of the snow pack in 1966 - a winter that was marked by the formation of a hard ice layer that caused the deaths of a large number of reindeer in the Kautokeino region, an event that is remembered by many reindeer herders today. Dagrun was interviewed by Philip Burgess during the Winter of 2007/8.

What is your position and where do you work?

I work at the Norwegian Meteorological Institite in the Climate Research group and I am currently working in the EALAT project.

What kind of research are you doing in the EALAT project?

I try to model the stratigraphy of snow. This means  hat I try to model the different layers in the snow - what kind of grain type each layer has, what kind of temperature each layer has, what is the grain size, and what kind of density the snow has.

How do you do that?

I use weather station data, which have been observed every day or every six hours and I input this data into a model that tries to model the snow layers for every day.

Where are these weather stations that you are using?

The weather stations that I use are in those used my the Norwegian meteorological institute, and more specifally for EALAT, I use data from stations in Kautokeino and Karasjok, though of course I can use data from any weather station. I am using every year that there have been weather observations in Kautokeino and Karasjok. The data includes precipitation, snow depth, wind speed,  wind direction.

How far back do these observations go?

Some of them go back to the 1950's. But I would need field measurements of the snow to validate what I am modelling and that is the project that we have undertaken this winter.

What software do you use to analyse this data?

I am using a programme that has been developed in Switzerland, at SLF, the Snow Avalanche Institute and this program is specifically designed for modelling snow stratigraphy (Sample image below from SAI webpage).


What challenges have you found arise when comparing the model to reality?

Well, actually it is a little early to say that will part of the work we do next winter. At this stage we can say that the snow depth is very well modelled.The layering is also very good. What I am most curious to see is whether I can model the density and the formation of hard ice layers in the years that we know there have been hard ice layers in the snow pack. This is something we don't know yet, but hope to see as the work progresses.The tasks for this winter (2007/8) has been to go out and make snow pits and measure the snow density, the grain size and types,the layers, the temperature and then on some specific sites check if the model relates to what we can observe in nature.

Why do you think this research is useful?

It is very useful when you can model the different layers because if I see that one represents accurately what we see in nature, then I can go back into the past and then identify what periods we had hard ice layers and which periods that the snow was very loose which means that reindeer can easily access the pastures. Also we can then better understand what weather and climate situations creates these hard ice layers. This is of great potential use in the future. Later then we can look at climate scenarios and look at the precipitation and temperature data and try to predict, for example, if we will have more of these kind of weather situations that create hard layers in the future.

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