Geophysical Institute

GEOF328 Mountain Meteorology Seminar in Ustaoset

When the sad April weather became unbearable, six students went to Ustaoset at the far end of Hardangervidda one week after Easter, together with Professor Thomas Spengler and Course Assistant Sunil Kumar Pariyar, to hold a seminar in Mesoscale Dynamics with special focus on mountain meteorology.


We arrived just in time, as spring arrived the following week in the high mountains removing the last bits of snow. Fortunately, the snow was dry and nice during our stay, and we had a good opportunity to explore the area on skis and study the local weather conditions.

The first trip went to Ustetind (1376 moh.), located on the other side of Ustevatn. From there top you have a fabulous view of Vidda to the south and on good days it is possible to see Gaustatoppen in the distance. The participants unfortunately did not manage to identify a single mountain this time, but this did not matter, because we had oranges, hot juice, and chocolate enough for an entire delegation. We sat at a cabin nearby and studied the sky. It was a messy weather situation. The Cyrus clouds drifted steadily towards the northeast, but the lower, local clouds moved almost random. We decided that this was due to the mountainous terrain, but the encounter between different weather regimes east and west of the main mountain chain might also have been significant. At least we could explain the lens clouds, which arise from strong winds over mountains in a stably stratified atmosphere. We went home via the Tuva hut, ate a nice dinner and played board games until we went to bed.

The following day, each of us students presented each of our articles that we had read in advance. Espen talked about a colossal stationary gravity wave in the atmosphere of Venus, and Sunil about the circulation in the Kali Gandaki Valley in the home Nepal, where the mountain and wind winds blow with storm strength regularly as a result of solar warming. We also heard of more regular weather phenomena such as orographic precipitation, catabatic flow and gap winds through fjords. Besides the scientific part, we also gained important insights in lecture techniques, which will benefit our student and later working life.

Halfway through our stay, we had an urge to go outside again and Hallingskarvet (about 1900 msl), which had hitherto been hidden behind drifting snow, looked tempting upon us. We left for breakfast on the rugged mountain ridge north of the cottage grounds. We had headwind all the way to the bottom of Skarvet, but then followed the trail eastwards towards Skarvsenden. In summer you can go straight up following a track to the top, but this path is too steep for skiing due to avalanche risk. Hence, we took the trail to Prestholt. The Sherpas have also made a stone staircase here, which makes Hallingskarvet even more available in summertime. On the plateau it was very windy and it felt as if we were in the middle of the jet stream. This was no resting place, and we hurried down again not to be blown away. At the top of the Skarvet, the wind can reach hurricane strength bad weather, and in so-called hydraulic jumps in the lee extreme wind speeds can regularly be reached. In addition, mountains can set up stationary gravity waves, which are sometimes manifested in the clouds that are nicely lined up one after another many kilometers away. Hallingskarvet may remind you of the Realfagsbygget, but dictates the local weather more than some faculty buildings in Bergen, and more than most mountains in Norway. It is no coincidence that the philosopher and outdoor man Arne Næss (1912-2009) lived here for twelve years at the Tvergastein cabin.

Upon return, we had exams back in Bergen that we should take and appreciated the four days away. In Bergen, April was soon over. Now the spring could come.