Roundup: Cold War waste, glacier retreat, and “glacier quakes”

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016

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Cold War Waste Buried Beneath Melting Greenland Ice

Nuclear power plant at Greenland's Camp Century during the Cold War (Source: US Army)

Nuclear power plant at Greenland’s Camp Century during the Cold War (Source: US Army)

From Scientific American: “When the U.S. military abandoned Camp Century, a complex of tunnels dug into the ice of northwest Greenland, in the mid-1960s, they left behind thousands of tons of waste, including hazardous radioactive and chemical materials. They expected the detritus would be safely entombed in the ice sheet for tens of thousands of years, buried ever deeper under accumulating layers of snow and ice.”

“But a new study suggests that because of warming temperatures that are driving substantial melting of the ice, that material could be exposed much, much sooner—possibly even by the end of this century—posing a threat to vulnerable local ecosystems.”

Read more here.

Researchers manipulate Andean stream to mimic glacier retreat

Antisana Ecological Reserve in Equador, where the study took place (Source: Stefan Weigel)

Antisana Ecological Reserve in Equador, where the study took place (Source: Stefan Weigel)

From Nature Communications: “Glacier retreat is a worldwide phenomenon with important consequences for the hydrological cycle and downstream ecosystem structure and functioning. To determine the effects of glacier retreat on aquatic communities, we conducted a 4-year flow manipulation in a tropical glacier-fed stream. Compared with an adjacent reference stream, meltwater flow reduction induces significant changes in benthic fauna community composition in less than 2 weeks. Also, both algal and herbivore biomass significantly increase in the manipulated stream as a response to flow reduction.”

Read the full study here.

“Glacier quakes” causing a stir in Alaska

Hundreds of small seismic events have occurred in an area near Pothole Glacier. From the Alaska Earthquake Center

Hundreds of small seismic events have occurred in an area near Pothole Glacier. From the Alaska Earthquake Center

By KTUU: “Earlier this summer, the scientists at the Alaska Earthquake Center began monitoring a swarm of small earthquakes in an area about eight miles west of Mt. Spurr. According to State Seismologist Dr. Michael West, they probably aren’t earthquakes at all…The Alaska Earthquake Center worked with the Alaska Volcano Observatory and largely ruled out volcanic activity. That left glaciers as the most likely explanation.”

“Most ‘glacier’ quakes are caused by large icebergs calving into water. West says some of these can be felt hundreds of miles away. Glaciers can also cause the ground to shake from crevassing, grinding against the underlying rock and pieces falling off ice falls.”

Learn more here.

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