Posts by Fei Gao

Days After Surviving Avalanche, Indian Soldier Dies

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Days After Surviving Avalanche, Indian Soldier Dies

Spread the News:ShareThe only surviving member of a group of 10 Indian soldiers that was hit by a Himalayan avalanche on February 3 has died from his injuries, the BBC reported. The soldier, Hanumanthappa Koppad, was found alive on February 8 deep under the snow at an altitude of about 19,600 feet, days after the deadly avalanche happened on a glacier in Kashmir. He succumbed to his injuries on February 11. The avalanche buried the soldiers after it hit a camp located in the northern part of the Siachen glacier. Rescue operations were conducted by specialized teams from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. There were over 150 personnel with radar, snow-cutting equipment, medical equipment, and thermal detectors engaged in the rescue work. Koppad was detected using radar and thermal imaging. He was weak and disoriented when he was rescued. The soldier was airlifted to a hospital in Delhi and was being taken care of by special medical teams. “We hope the miracle continues. Pray with us,” the Army said, according to NDTV, when he was in a coma. Kopad was given full state honors during his funeral on February 12, in his home village of Betadur in the Dharwad district. Hundreds of people went to the funeral and the whole village was immersed in sorrow. The Chief Minister in India guaranteed approximately $37,000 for the family, according to a report in The Indian Express. The Siachen glacier is considered to be the world’s highest battlefield. It’s located in a disputed region, and both India and Pakistan send troops to patrol it, hoping to gain sovereignty. The avalanche that killed the soldiers spurred discussions about the conditions of the soldiers who have been patrolling this region, and must work in hazardous conditions and thin air. In January 2016, four Indian soldiers were killed by an avalanche in the same area, according to a BBC report. Prior to 1984, neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent settlement in the area. In 2003, India and Pakistan declared a ceasefire along the Line of Control, which is a line between the areas claimed by the two countries and serves as the de facto border. However, soldiers from both India and Pakistan stationed in this area have died  because of the extreme weather conditions. In fact, over 870 soldiers have lost their lives due to the weather conditions since 1984, according to The Hindu. Pakistan proposed on February 11 that both countries should mutually withdraw troops from the world’s coldest battlefield to avoid future tragedies, according to a report. This proposal has been turned down by the Indian Army. “No question of troops withdrawal from Siachen as proposed by Pakistan unless Indian position on ground is authenticated,” an Indian military official said, according to The Indian Express. He added: “I see no reason at all to connect this to any withdrawal from the Glacier. That being absolutely clear to us, we are committed to defending our borders and we will continue to do that.” Although India has been continually improving the equipment for soldiers who are stationed at Siachen, future injuries and deaths seem likely due to the hazardous conditions at the top of the world. Spread the...

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Roundup: Gender, Dust and Pacific Glaciers

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Gender, Dust and Pacific Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareGlaciers, gender, and science “Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.” To learn more about the research, click here. The dark biological secret of the cryosphere “Cryoconite is granular sediment found on glacier surfaces comprising both mineral and biological material. Despite long having been recognised as an important glaciological and biological phenomenon cryoconite remains relatively poorly understood. Here, we appraise the literature on cryoconite for the first time, with the aim of synthesising and evaluating current knowledge to direct future investigations. We review the properties of cryoconite, the environments in which it is found, the biology and biogeochemistry of cryoconite, and its interactions with climate and anthropogenic pollutants. We generally focus upon cryoconite in the Arctic in summer, with Antarctic and lower latitude settings examined individually. We then compare the current state-of-the-science with that at the turn of the twentieth century, and suggest directions for future research including specific recommendations for studies at a range of spatial scales and a framework for integrating these into a more holistic understanding of cryoconite and its role in the cryosphere.” To read more about the research, click here. Hooker Glacier Retreat, 1990-2015 “Glacier change revealed in Landsat images from 1990 and 2015.  Mueller Glacier (M) and Hooker Glacier (H).  The red arrow indicates 1990 terminus location, the yellow arrow indicates 2015 terminus location and the purple arrow indicates upglacier thinning.” “Hooker Glacier parallels the Tasman Glacier one valley to the west draining south from Mount Hicks and Mount Cook.  Hooker Glacier is a low gradient which helps reduce its overall velocity and  a debris covered ablation zone reducing ablation, both factors increasing response time to climate change  (Quincey and Glasser 2009). Hooker Lake which the glacier ends in began to from around 1982 (Kirkbride, 1993).  In 1990 the lake was 1100 m long (Figure 11.2).  From 1990 to 2015 the lake expanded to 2300 m, with the retreat enhanced by calving. The 1200 m retreat was faster during the earlier part of this period (Robertson et al.,2013).” To read more about the story, click here. Spread the...

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How Life Arrives on Glacier Barrens

Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Science | 0 comments

How Life Arrives on Glacier Barrens

Spread the News:ShareThe crust that forms on the top layer of the soil that is exposed after a glacier retreats is a rich, important place and can support new plant growth in a tough alpine environment. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Biology suggests that biological soil crusts can help larger plants grow and colonize the area, a process called succession. The authors, Katie Breen  and Esther Lévesque of the University of Québec (Trois-Rivières), found that the land covered by biological crusts after a glacier retreats usually supports more plants than places that aren’t covered by soil crusts. The most dominant and thriving plant species can usually be found there, like Salix arctica, a tiny low shrub that grows in Arctic regions. In the middle of the 19th century, after the end of the Little Ice Age, temperatures increased, which led to a decrease in the mass of glaciers in the Canadian High Arctic. As glaciers retreated, microorganisms and plants had new opportunities to colonize the surface that appeared. The primary colonization of the barren terrestrial environment usually starts on the microbial scale, which is an often-overlooked fact in vegetation studies. The first to move in are the pioneering organisms, such as green algae, lichens, mosses, fungi and heterotrophic bacteria. As time goes by, the pioneering organisms in the soil can form a solid yet flexible layer no more than 1 cm deep close to the upper layer surface, called the biological or microbiotic soil crust. The microbiota nurtured in the biological soil are very resilient and can survive the most extreme living conditions on earth, such as glacial ice. However, it’s harder for larger plants to grow in the High Arctic; they favor habitats with higher soil temperature, lower wind speed, higher soil moisture content, and increased soil nitrate level. Luckily, biological soil crusts can provide higher plants with all the necessary growing conditions. Cyanobacteria, a type of bacteria, are able to fix nitrogen in soil crusts and improve nutrients levels in soil; some crusts have a gluey composition, which helps the soil retain moisture and protect it from erosion by wind and water. The rougher surface created by soil crusts is able to absorb more sunlight and thus increase temperature. The process of plants helping each other grow is called facilitation. In the early stage of succession, soil crusts are comparatively thin. Within four years of glacier retreat, the plant densities above the crusts are low. Nevertheless, as time goes by, the crusts help the plants grow and the variety of plants increases. Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that a few specific species benefit the most from soil crusts than other species. Those species are represented in much higher densities than the others and account for more of the land cover, such as Dryas integrifolia, a tiny shrub in the rose family. Dominant and long-lived species also seem to do especially well in the crust environment. According to the authors, as global temperature continues to grow, more glaciers are going to melt in the future and continue to make impacts on the development of communities left in the wake of glaciers. This trend may potentially influence the direction of succession. The study refers to this process as the “greening of the north.” Spread the...

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Glaciers Provide Insight on Norse Migration

Posted by on Dec 29, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 1 comment

Glaciers Provide Insight on Norse Migration

Spread the News:ShareRecent research on the dynamics of glaciers in the Arctic over the last millennium has altered understandings of climate history and of human migrations in this inhospitable region. Glaciers in Baffin Island and western Greenland reached their maximum extent during the time of Medieval Warm Period,  roughly 950-1250,  instead of the Little Ice Age of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries,  according to a recent research paper published in ScienceAdvances. This and other paleoclimate data suggest that the western North Atlantic region remained cool during the Medieval Warm Period, while the eastern North Atlantic was comparably warmer. Understanding these climate patterns provides insight into the migration patterns of the Norse from Scandinavia into the Arctic during the Medieval Warm Period. Glaciers are sensitive to variations in temperature and precipitation, so historical data on glacier fluctuations  can allow researchers to reconstruct past climates.  For example, if a glacier advances over an area with trees, the trees—and therefore the glacier advance—can be reconstructed through radiocarbon dating.  However, Arctic glaciers did not overrun trees, so it is difficult use this method to draw the true picture of glaciers during the late Holocene, covering the last 4000 years. Instead, researchers examine moraines, the rocks deposited at the front and sides of glaciers as they advance, or when they remain stable for some period.  When a rock is added to a moraine, it is exposed to cosmic rays, which slowly change the isotopes of certain elements within it. By examining the ratio of isotopes, scientists can determine the time since the rock was added. In this way, they determine the age of the moraine and reconstruct the history of glacier movements. This research allows them to reconstruct past climates. This information complements the records of past climate in ice cores and marine sediments, which till now have been the principal data sources which are used to establish the climate history of the Arctic. Nicolás E. Young and his colleagues  used a cosmogenic isotope, beryllium-10,  to study the development of moraines over the last millennium, focusing on  Naqsaq in Greenland and Ayr Lake in Baffin Island. They report that the size of glaciers in Baffin Island and western Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period was similar to their size during the Little Ice Age, so temperatures in this area during the Medieval Warm Period were cooler than was believed, despite the period’s name. These findings are of particular interest, because they provide clues for understanding human migrations at the time. Moving westward from their homelands in Scandinavia, the Norse settled in Iceland in the 9th century and arrived in Greenland in the 10th century.  Researchers had previously believed that the Norse were attracted by green lands and a relatively mild climate during Medieval Warm Period. They argued that temperatures at the time were  approximately 1º C higher than at the present and the associated decrease in sea ice in the North Atlantic allowed the Norse to travel to areas they had not been able to reach before. However, the new research  indicates that the climate during the Medieval Warm Period in the North Atlantic, when Norse made their settlements in Iceland and Greenland, was similar to the Little Ice Age, rather than being warmer. This suggests that the Norse migrations may not be related to climate factors, as previously believed. The authors propose that other socioeconomic factors, including the decline of their trade with other areas, contributed to Norse migrations. The Norse departure from Greenland might reflect their search for trading opportunities rather than to deteriorating climates during the Little Ice Age, though more research is needed to better understand this migration from Greenland at the end...

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Roundup: Photographers, skiers and pollen-counters

Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Photographers, skiers and pollen-counters

Spread the News:ShareLandscape photographer uncovers the beauty of mother nature “Mother Nature’s show is fickle, fleeting and often demanding. As an emerging landscape photographer, I am quickly learning the emergency-of-now; how once-in-a-lifetime moments are immediately lost if not acted upon. There is no safe, warm studio to snuggle up in and no way to get the content without being outside, in the land, surrounded by the elements and forced to contend with the kindness, fury and temperament of Mother Nature. Simply put, if I do not show up (and react to impulses) I will not get the photograph.  This emergency-of-now is also inherent in the translation of a photograph that can project the voice of the land. It is my wish that the land’s call for help, glory and cognizance will be heard far and wide via whatever community flows from my photographs, be it a gallery’s walls, a website, a magazine, airplane seat conversations and for the one-on-one conversation between my partner and I as we stand somewhere far from home, snapping shots and swimming in awe — feeling the urgency to expose the encounter while pushing “POST” to our Facebook feed via a rented hotspot connection.” Read more about the story, click here. Slalom course for ski areas facing future without snow “Grenoble (France) (AFP) – As temperatures rise there is less [snow] or sometimes even none at all — global warming is forcing ski areas to think about the once unthinkable, a future without snow. Some in the French Alps have gone beyond thinking and begun diversifying the activities they offer visitors, particularly those at around 1,300 metres (4,300 feet) altitude.” “According to Educ’Alpes, the glaciers have lost 26 percent of their surface and a third of their volume over the past 40 years, leading ski areas like Val Thorens to close its glacier to skiers a decade ago to ensure its protection.” Read more about the news here. Recent and Holocene climate change controls on vegetation and carbon accumulation in Alaskan coastal muskegs “Pollen, spore, macrofossil and carbon data from a peatland near Cordova, Alaska, reveal insights into the climate–vegetation–carbon interactions from the initiation of the Holocene, c. the last 11.5 ka, to the present (1 ka = 1000 calibrated years before present where 0 = 1950 CE). “ “Highlight of the research: Early Holocene deglaciation leads to foundation species Alnus dominance. Climate-driven vegetational change drives carbon storage in southeast Alaskan bogs. Sphagnum peat drives highest rates of carbon accumulation (50 g/m2/a). Mid-Holocene dry climate favors sedge and low carbon accumulation (13 g/m2/a). Last century of Alnus expansion signals glacial retreat with 2 °C warming.” Read more about the research here. Spread the...

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