In the Arctic regions snow cover has a major influence on the environment both in a hydrological and ecological context. Due to strong winds and open terrain the snow is heavily redistributed and the snow depth is quite variable. This has a significant influence on the duration of the melting season, on the possibilities of greenhouse gas exchange, the plant growing season and therefore the arctic terrestrial fauna. The aim of this study is to describe the snow depth variability by detailed measurement of snow distribution in a 3 km2 site near to Ny-Ålesund at 79° north of Svalbard and to link this to topography and climate at the location. The measurements were carried out in a grid of 100 m by 100 m cells using the SIR-2 Georadar from Geophysical Survey System Inc. (GSSI).

Differential GPS was used to create a detailed Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and the snow depth data were correlated to topographic data. The average snowdepth in the area was about 70 cm with a standard deviation of 40 cm. Statistical distribution and spatial correlation for the snow depths were found. The method was found acceptable for snow distribution mapping. The main observation was the major accumulation in the west facing slopes due to easterly winds that are dominant in this area.