Posts by Christina Langone

Photo Friday: Upsala Glacier

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Upsala Glacier

Spread the News:ShareUpsala Glacier, a stunning glacier within Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina, has been retreating rapidly due to climate change. NASA has found, through satellite imaging, that Upsala’s ice front has moved back approximately 2 miles since 2001, following a similar trend seen in the rest of Patagonia (the vast area at the southern extent of Chile and Argentina). Also featured in the photos below is the Estancia Cristina–a popular ranch that many visitors use as an outpost on their journey through the glacial park, especially to see Upsala. The ranch offers unique views of the glaciers and its own beautiful scenery. Upsala gets its namesake from the Swedish University (Uppsala University) that first sponsored glacier research in this area. The area has been extensively studied since, and Upsala is often used as an example of glacial retreat in Argentina. Upsala’s retreat is significant because of the size of the glacier; once the largest glacier in South America, it is now the third largest. Argentinian glaciers, and Upsala in general, will aid in our further understanding of glacier dynamics. Cristina Estancia Ranch Cristina Estancia Ranch (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/8632855@N05/3132389522/in/photolist-5LNjgU-mWNrP2-AovBjN-5ULuBg-BeyDho-BUkdW5-DBwf7r-DzcUYf-kPy5sx-DzcVh1-Dr7Emo-mWQjRb-5LNiNy-5ULx6p-5UL9dX-5ULkN6-baXWPx-baXWYX-5UQtgj-aBAbqT-aBJ85t-aBLGyq-aBLE29-aBJ4nZ-aBHX58-aBHVzg-aBLd5A-aBLCAs-aBHUF8-aBLDnN-aBLFPJ-aBHvbD-aBLJMq-aBJ3Ev-aBLL8L-aBJ7jn-aBJ5Ng-aBHWjr-aBHTSg-aBLcqN-aBLETQ-aBHTfv-dbHFM7-baXYbD-baXXNP-baXXDP-baXXZF-5LivTv-dbHAar-55GC6d"> Shane R/Flikr</a>) Upsala Glacier Upsala Glacier (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mederic/2201782237/"> Médéric/Flikr</a>) Near Estancia Cristina Near Estancia Cristina (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/benobryan/3223386378/in/photolist-5UQGtd-79DsEh-5LNjgU-mWNrP2-AovBjN-5ULuBg-BeyDho-kPy5sx-BUkdW5-DBwf7r-DzcUYf-DzcVh1-Dr7Emo-mWQjRb-5LNiNy-5ULx6p-5UL9dX-5ULkN6-baXWPx-baXWYX-5UQtgj-aBAbqT-aBJ85t-aBLGyq-aBLE29-aBJ4nZ-aBHX58-aBHVzg-aBLd5A-aBLCAs-aBHUF8-aBLDnN-aBLFPJ-aBHvbD-aBLJMq-aBJ3Ev-aBLL8L-aBJ7jn-aBJ5Ng-aBHWjr-aBHTSg-aBLcqN-aBLETQ-aBHTfv-dbHFM7-9Yt9Up-baXYbD-baXXNP-baXXDP-baXXZF">Ben O'Bryan/Flikr</a>) Upsala Glacier Retreat Upsala Glacier Retreat (Photo:<a href="https://www.nasa.gov/content/upsala-glacier-retreat">NASA/</a>) Mountain near Estancia Cristina Mountain near Estancia Cristina (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/benobryan/3222497455/"> Ben O'Bryan/Flikr</a>) Spread the...

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Have Ice Ages Gone Extinct?

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Have Ice Ages Gone Extinct?

Spread the News:ShareA new study in Nature says the Earth, previously headed for an Ice Age before the Industrial Revolution, is likely to maintain its current warm phase in the glacial cycle for an unprecedented amount of time. The researchers―Andrey Ganopolski, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research―first examined the effect of the Earth’s  orbital characteristics on the glacial cycle, but found that increased carbon dioxide (CO2) played a more important role.  Additionally, they found a critical relationship between CO2 and solar radiation that could aid in predicting the beginning of the next glacial period. “This illustrates very clearly that we have long entered a new era, and that in the Anthropocene humanity itself has become a geological force. In fact, an epoch could be ushered in which might be dubbed the Deglacial,” co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said in a press release for the study. Interglacial periods are the phases in Earth’s history with generally low amounts of global ice, and glacial periods have the most ice. The study uses the commonly accepted theory that glacial periods occur when Northern Hemisphere summer solar radiation (the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface) is at its lowest. If summer solar radiation is low in the Northern Hemisphere, where there is more land, snow does not melt as readily. This build up of snow leads to more reflectivity―albedo―at the surface. As global albedo increases, even less snow melts and this process continues enhancing itself; this positive feedback loop could potentially trigger a glacial period. This concept was used to support the study’s claim that our planet was headed for a glacial period prior to the Industrial Revolution since the solar exposure was, and still is, close to its minimum. The authors argue that the level of CO2 and low amount of solar radiation seen prior to industrialization should have led to a rapid buildup of ice sheets. The team also considered the effect that the Earth’s orbital shape might have on climate. The eccentricity of the Earth is currently in a low phase―the Earth’s orbit fluctuates over thousands of years between having a more pronounced elliptical shape in its high phase and a more circular one in its low phase. In its current orbital pattern, the Earth does not get far enough from the sun during the Northern Hemisphere summer to achieve the solar radiation minima that typically spur the buildup of ice. They believed that the current near-circular orbital pattern may have countered the effects of the cooling that would be expected from the lower solar radiation. In other words, the team thought the shape of the Earth’s orbit could explain why we have not entered an ice age. In order to test this theory, the researchers used paleoclimate data (data derived from studying natural indicators of the conditions found in previous geologic times) from two similar glacial periods to see if there are any important similarities to the period we are in today, known as the Holocene. The theory that the orbit had caused the delayed ice age was challenged by the fact that similar orbital patterns have led to glacial periods in the past. It was found that neither period matched the Holocene’s characteristics well enough, again showing the unprecedented behavior of the glacial cycle. Though not a providing a perfect replication of current circumstances, this paleo data provided the closest geological approximation of similar global conditions and was incorporated into their simulations to try to get the most accurate representation of when the next glacial period should begin. The team used a...

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Could Glacier Retreat Cause Seals to Wander?

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Could Glacier Retreat Cause Seals to Wander?

Spread the News:ShareThough populations of harbor seals – the captivating species seen in almost every zoo – are stable in other areas of the world, they are seeing declines in southeastern Alaska. These particular seals use icebergs calved from nearby glaciers as a place to rest and breed, but changes in ice availability are affecting these behaviors, crucial to their survival and reproduction. Two separate studies, one by the National Park Service (NPS) and one by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), have independently found that seals may be changing their distribution and behavior to match the shifting locations of ice, as glaciers retreat. Jamie Womble, leading the NPS research in Glacier Bay, is providing a new way of relating glacier ice extent and harbor seal territory, both in location and seasonality. Womble and her team aim to find the exact distribution and movements of these Alaskan harbor seals. Aerial tracking– flying above the ice and counting the seals–is a method that works effectively in the region. They also glue GPS transmitters to the seals, and track their movements on land-based monitors. These transmitters come off safely during the next summer’s molt, so they present only minimal risk to the animals. Womble and her team found that “[d]espite extensive migration and movements of seals away from Glacier Bay during the post-breeding season, there was a high degree of inter-annual site fidelity (return rate) of seals to Glacier Bay the following pupping/breeding season.” In addition to studying the distances which the seals traveled, Womble and her group also examined the patterns of seal movement in relation to the glacial ice. The team studied the ice distribution within John Hopkins Inlet, which they coordinated with aerial tracking data to examine the relationship between the ice extent and the harbor seals. John Hopkins Inlet, the main area of research for Womble, is home to Johns Hopkins Glacier and Gilman Glacier which are among the few advancing glaciers in this region. Seals were found to congregate in areas with the highest percentage of ice. “Tidewater glacier fjords in Alaska host some of the largest seasonal aggregations of harbor seals in Alaska,” Womble told GlacierHub in an interview. Many of these tidewater glaciers – glaciers that run into the sea and calve frequent icebergs – are thinning, and a few have begun retreating. In particular, rapid retreat on the east side of Glacier Bay is leading to decreased seal pupping. During this critical season when the pups are newborn, mother seals and the weaning baby seals use flat icebergs to rest. “By 2008, no seals were pupping in Muir Inlet, and fewer than 200 seals were counted in McBride Inlet near the terminus of the McBride Glacier, the only remaining tidewater glacier in the East Arm of Glacier Bay,“ the NPS team stated in a recent report. In a report, ADFG  emphasizes the importance of  studying  “…why, how, and when harbor seals use glacial habitat, and whether the rapid thinning and retreat of Alaskan glaciers associated with climate change could negatively affect harbor seals…” Their research documented similar instances of glacier thinning and retreat and they are also monitoring seal movement, as well as other topics, including seal diet, seal weight and bodily composition and disturbances by tour vessels. Though ADFG began their work in Glacier Bay, the same site as the other team, they moved their research to Tracy Arm Ford’s Terror Wilderness Area – more than 200 miles to the southeast. The ADFG team has attached transmitters such as SPOT  to track the seals. These beam data on location, heart rate and other biological indicators up to satellites. To gather data, the researchers depend on the seals surfacing to breathe or rest, since the satellites cannot receive signals that are released underwater....

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Roundup: Icebergs, Mobile Toxins, Festive Algae

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Icebergs, Mobile Toxins, Festive Algae

Spread the News:ShareIceberg Ahead! A New Study Finds Way to Avert Disaster “When performing offshore operations in the Arctic, there are several challenges. One of those challenges is the threat of icebergs on offshore structures and vessels. Icebergs can exert extremely high loads on vessels, offshore platforms, and seabed installations.” Find out how the team is proposing safer Arctic travels.    Glaciers Retreat Toxic Metals Are on the Move in Tibet “In mountain ecosystems, the most important natural source of trace metals is from the weathering of parent materials. However, in recent decades, the metals in mountain regions are mainly from anthropogenic sources including mining, refinement, and fuel combustion. Considering the toxicity of trace metals, it is necessary to investigate and evaluate their mobility and eco-risk in mountain ecosystems.” Learn more about the possibly toxic soil exposed as glaciers retreat.   With Red and Green Snow, Algae Just Misses Christmas Season “We demonstrate that green and red snow clearly vary in their physico-chemical environment, their microbial community composition and their metabolic profiles. For the algae this likely reflects both different stages of their life cycles and their adaptation strategies. ” Read more about the colorful algae and what it means for soil quality.   Spread the...

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If You Can’t Handle the Heat – Retreat

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If You Can’t Handle the Heat – Retreat

Spread the News:ShareZachariæ Isstrøm, a large glacier in the northeast coast of Greenland, is in a state of accelerated retreat after it detached from an important sill. This shift has caused great instability for the glacier, according to a new study from Science Magazine. Recognizing 0.5 meters of possible sea level rise held within Zachariæ, and its acceleration expected to continue, the authors point to an increased likelihood of sea level rise coming from this area in the next 20 or 30 years. This study is noteworthy since Zachariæ is found far north, close to 79 degrees N. The Greenland glaciers which have been highlighted for their fast retreats to date are found further south.  Jeremie Mouginot from the University of California, Irvine and his coauthors looked specifically at the effects of warming ocean and air temperatures on the melting and discharge dynamics of the glacier. (More Greenland work from the UCI team can be found here.) The precise measurements of the ice discharge data were made possible by NASA, who provided funds and much of the data and equipment.  The researchers observed a 50% increase in the retreating speed since 2000. There was also a doubling of ice thinning. On the ice shelf, this process was extensive enough to be measured by satellites. Data showed Zachariæ in a stable state up until 2003 when a large piece broke off. Since that breaking point Zachariæ retreated at a steady state until 2013-14 when the retreat accelerated. It is now retreating at a rate of 125 meters per year and losing 5 gigatons of mass yearly. The increased mass loss is attributed by the authors to a combination of warming air and ocean temperatures. These changes lead to increased ice loss by way of calving, as opposed to changes in the accumulation of mass through precipitation.  Ocean temperatures play an important role in glacier retreat; the authors argue that the nearly 1 degree C increase in ocean temperatures near the glacier is largely responsible for triggering the enhanced retreat. #JeremieMouginot #ZachariaeIsstrom – Huge Greenland Glacier Crumbling Into The… https://t.co/rYbnJ92ilo #UnderTech pic.twitter.com/RWaNpgDKYQ — koplokpeople (@koplokpeople) November 14, 2015 Warming air temperatures lead to an increase in ice thinning which affects the placement of the grounding line below the surface – an important transition area where the glacier begins floating.  As the grounding line retreats there is increased surface area of the glacier exposed to the melting from below. Zachariæ began to calve so rapidly at the grounding line in 2014 that the remaining ice shelf was “95% smaller than in 2002” according to the researcher’s Landsat optical imagery data. The authors did speak of another glacier in the Northeast of Greenland that is also experiencing accelerations-Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Glacier (NG). Though the overall changes on NG were not as rapid as Zachariæ, the authors suggest that NG will become more vulnerable in the future. “Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth’s major glaciers were to start retreating,” said one of the authors, Eric Rignot. “We no longer need to wonder; for a couple of decades now, we’ve been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers. The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland.” Isstrøm, a Danish phrase that translates as ice stream, seems to take on a poetic meaning when one thinks of the drastic amount of ice now “streaming” from the glacier. As Zachariæ transitions into a tidewater glacier, it can be expected to calve more icebergs and become more vulnerable to increases in ocean temperatures. With other glaciers in this area retreating quickly Greenland will be an important region to watch in the coming decades, the authors concluded. Here is a...

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