Sources of the Norwegian winter season snow pack constrained by stable water isotopes – SNOWPACE

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About the project

A lack of fundamental knowledge on the atmospheric water cycle creates great uncertainty in current climate model simulations, and regional models used in downscaling. These models are however needed for both increasing our knowledge about natural and anthropogenic climate change, and to improve predictions on future impact of climate change on natural environments and society.

Despite increasing resolution, models continue to use established parameterization for some of the processes pertaining to the water cycle, such as evapora- tion and cloud microphysics, for which these formulations may not be as well suited. This implies an urgent need for validating the water cycle of such models with new and additional observations.

The SNOWPACE project addresses this need through a bold approach, leading to significant scientific renewal: we propose to employ stable water isotope measurements enabling one to constrain moisture transport simulations from source to sink.

The project is a collaborative effort of UiB and UiO. Activities include dedicated field measurements of;

  • (i) evaporating waters,
  • (ii) atmospheric water vapor from a network of stations in the North Atlantic region and across the coastal mountain range of Norway, and
  • (iii) snowfall and snow cores from the Norwegian winter snow pack.

The collaboration between the two departments in Bergen and Oslo will provide new scientific understanding to constrain models will pave the way to address important needs in climate and weather model development, and for important knowledge for the management of natural resources in the context of a changing climate system.


The primary objective of the SNOWPACE project is to identify where the moisture sources for the Norwegian winter snow pack are located, and how variable they are. Addressing this objective contributes to the overall aim of establishing stable water isotopes as an additional source-to-sink constraint of the water cycle in global and regional atmospheric models.

The secondary objectives, guiding the work packages, are to (i) acquire new observational data at moisture sources (from ships), during transport (at coastal and inland stations), and at the moisture sink (snow), (ii) apply existing model tools to study moisture transport, (iii) expand model tools with stable isotope fractionation functionality, (iv) apply an innovative combination of conceptually different models to parse out previously  inaccessible information from the stable isotope data, (v) testing the sensitivity of model results to different processes and factors.


The scientific legacy of the project will be made available as a open-access, citable doi-tagged data set at the end of the project. Substantial meta-data from sampling and calibration procedures, as well as gridded products will be provided, specified according to user needs from the community defined during the stable isotope workshop.

User groups at the institute (MET Norway) and private sector (hydro energy companies) will be targeted specifically for dissemination, and a dedicated session will be hold at the stable isotope workshop.

Through clearly targeted dissemination of new knowledge, and embedding a partner from energy industry, we establish communication channels towards future applications of the fundamental knowledge gained in SNOWPACE.


The SNOWPACE-project is led by the University of Bergen with key contributions from the University of Oslo. The project is funded in the FRINATEK-programme by the Norwegian Research Council, with NFR project number 262710.

The project period for SNOWPACE is from 2017 to 2021.


SNOWPACE provides an important and unique scientific innovation both for Norway and internationally. The project is led by the University of Bergen (link to projectpage) with key contributions from the University of Oslo. 

Statkraft AS is also providing logistical support and access to key infrastructure.


SNOWPACE conducts field measurements at the Finse Alpine Research Center, where considerable sensor infrastructure of the interdisciplinary research initiative LATICE, MN-faculty, University of Oslo is available.

The project relies extensively on FLEXPART and will contribute further to the development of the WATERSIP model. Furthermore it makes use of the FARLAB national infrastructure.


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Published Mar. 15, 2019 5:16 PM - Last modified Mar. 25, 2022 2:44 PM


John F. Burkhart, Professor