Avalanche risk and infrastructure disruption in Troms County, Northern Norway

Lead Author Marianne, Karlsson
Institution Contact Nordland Research Institute P.O. Box 1490 NO-8049 Bodø Norway
Co-Authors Grete Hovelsrud, Nord University, Norway Julia Olsen, Nord University/ Nordland Research Institute, Norway
Theme Theme 2: Vulnerability of Arctic Societies
Session Name 2.3 Current infrastructural Challenges, extreme weather and natural hazards and the effects on northern communities
Datetime Wed, Sep 14, 2016 10:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text The steep topography in Troms County, Northern Norway, combined with weather and settlement patterns create conditions for avalanche risks. The risk and occurrence of avalanches lead to road closures that disrupt the transportation of people, goods and services and may isolate communities. Climate change is altering the timing, frequency and spatial range of avalanche risks. The importance of reliable and predictable infrastructure for rural communities has increased as both businesses and social life are highly interconnected with urban areas and other settlements in the region. At the same time, growing demands for personal safety from government authorities result in longer periods of road closures. While avalanche risks and infrastructure disruption are most often assessed in technical and economic terms, this paper focuses on the localised experiences of living with and responding to such risks This paper presents findings on how local residents, businesses and public service providers in two avalanche exposed settlements experience, perceive and adapt to risks related to avalanches, infrastructure disruption and isolation. Based on qualitative interviews with local residents and government officials, the paper shows that perceptions of risks and what constitutes ‘acceptable’ levels of disruption vary between and within the two settlements. Further, the findings illustrate that residents have developed a range of response strategies to the disruptions caused by avalanche risks. Everyday responses include keeping an extra set of clothing, toiletries and medicine on the other side of the avalanche points, reducing social commitments during peak season and relying on local knowledge and social networks. More far-reaching responses seek to influence politicians and authorities to implement measures that reduce avalanche risks. The paper argues that the current adaptation strategies might be challenged under climate change and increasing societal demands related to safety and connectivity.
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