Posts by Greg Dietz

Wildfires Melt Glaciers From a Distance

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

Wildfires Melt Glaciers From a Distance

Spread the News:ShareScientists have begun to trace a link between climate change, an increased number of wildfires and glacier melting.  Particles emitted by wildfires and then deposited on glaciers are thought to darken the ice’s surface, and may lead to more rapid melting. Natalie Kehrwald, a geologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is currently studying the levels of wildfire particles deposited on the Juneau Icefield in Alaska. Kehrwald and her fellow USGS geologist, Shad O’Neel,  who is tracking the retreat of glaciers in the Juneau Icefield, are working together to document the contributions of wildfires to glacier melting. “In the past two to three years there have been huge wildfires [in Alaska]… I am trying to see if there are aerosols being deposited on the Juneau ice field and if they are accelerating the melting,”  said Kehrwald in an interview with GlacierHub. According to multiple sources, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the non-profit research and news organization Climate Central, rising Arctic temperatures are creating longer and more severe wildfire seasons, with larger and more frequent fires.  Kehrwald proposes that an increase in wildfires has led to a greater volume of aerosols, a mixture of carbon and other particles, deposited onto glaciers.  There may be a minor feedback as well. Since glaciers act as large mirrors and keep the planet cooler by reflecting solar energy back into space, the loss of glaciers could also accelerate the rise in temperaturse. In early August, Kehrwald and O’Neel led a team of student researchers from the Juneau Icefield Training Program into the field, where they gathered ice cores.  They will later analyze these cores for wildfire indicators in a lab.   “We take samples from the highest, flattest parts of the glacier in specific locations that are impacted by air masses.  We drill down 7-9 meters, which date back about two to three years,” said Kehrwald, summarizing their trip. The carbon deposits from wildfires can be grouped into a larger category called black carbon, which have been linked to rapid glacier melting.  Black carbon refers to carbon released from both biomass burning and fossil fuel emissions.  In order to determine whether the carbon on the Juneau Icefield is from wildfires, Kehrwald will look for a specific molecular marker in the ice.   “It is a sugar called levoglucosan and it is only produced if you burn cellulose at a temperature of about 250 degrees Celsius,” said Kehrwald.  “So if you see high concentrations of that molecule you know the origin is biomass burning, which is generally wildfires but could be a big compilation of household fires.” Although the Alaskan wildfires occur predominantly in the boreal forest located in a drier region far north of the Juneau Icefield, smoke from wildfires have been known to travel great distances.  The phenomena of darkening glaciers due to particles from wildfires was well documented last year when large wildfires in British Columbia deposited particles on glaciers across the North American Arctic and as far as Greenland. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, three of the top ten largest Alaskan wildfires since 1940 occurred in the last decade.  In 2015, Alaskan wildfires burned over 5 million acres of land.  Alaska’s burnt acreage represented five-sixths of the national total land consumed by wildfires in that year, according to The Washington Post.  The acreage of wildfire burned land in 2015 is second only to the approximately 6.5 million acres burned in 2004. A 2015 report, The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, produced by non-profit group Climate Central stated that large Arctic wildfires are no longer rare.   “We found the number...

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Glimpsing the Arctic: A Conversation with Artist Mariele Neudecker

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images, Interviews | 0 comments

Glimpsing the Arctic: A Conversation with Artist Mariele Neudecker

Spread the News:ShareMany people may never see a glacier or an iceberg up close, given issues of cost, inaccessibility and environmental changes. Yet artist Mariele Neudecker is making the experience a bit more accessible, as she transports a vision of the Arctic to galleries and museum floors. Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, the 51-year-old lifelong artist now resides in Bristol, where she creates sculptures, photographs, films and paintings.  Over the past 20 years, Neudecker has produced a wide range of landscape and still life artwork, much of which seeks to capture the essence of glaciers and icebergs. Recently, a selection of Neudecker’s Arctic-focused art was the center of her exhibit, Some Things Happen All At Once, at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany.  Additionally, four copies of her photographs were featured at Project Pressure’s Outdoor Installation, which GlacierHub recently covered in August. In an interview with GlacierHub, Neudecker walks us through the journey behind her glacier artwork.  A condensed and edited version of the conversation follows.   GH:  I understand the Zeppelin Museum installation is not the first project you have done focusing on glaciers. MN: I have done a lot of work with [19th century landscape painter] Caspar David Friedrich paintings and converting them into 3D tank pieces.  The first one I did in 1997 was clearly using ice in a reference to his painting “Sea of Ice.”   GH: What attracted you to ice and glacier themed art back in 1997, when you first incorporated Arctic ice elements into your artwork? MN: It [my work] was more of an exploration of landscapes. I looked at mountains, forests and the ocean.  However, I always thought the remoteness and difficulty to imagine the Arctic created an interesting perception… It is about the subject of glaciers and the Arctic, but fundamentally it’s about perceptions and how we have longings to be somewhere else.  You can transport people to other places through paintings, films and all sorts of artwork. The Arctic has always been a metaphor for climate change and human shortcomings, so there are a lot of cliché images of glaciers representing the environment.  That has provoked me to add other layers to that representation.  The challenge is to avoid the clichés.   GH:  What was the most difficult feeling to capture that you wanted to convey to viewers? MN: I wanted to hint at the unknown and to highlight that all we see are little fragments of something much bigger.  It’s hard to capture the feeling of standing in massive open spaces where you are trapped in your eye sockets and you must turn your head to take it all in. It’s similar to deep sea projects I have done, where the camera is in the black depths of the ocean and only with artificial light can you see a fraction of the spaces. You know how massive the space is, but you only see a tiny piece of it.   GH: What was the most surprising to you when you were out in the field capturing glaciers? MN: The sound! That really threw me. I had no idea how loud they were.  Camping on the side of a glacier the silence and then the sounds that interrupted that silence were so powerful.  I’ve seen a million images of glaciers, but no one told me about the sounds. I tried to record them but I wasn’t able to capture it well.  That would be a future project I would love to do.   GH: Before you went to Greenland, all of your Arctic work was derived from images and paintings....

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Roundup: Pakistan’s Glaciers, Jobless Sherpas, Ancient Rivers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Pakistan’s Glaciers, Jobless Sherpas, Ancient Rivers

Spread the News:ShareThis Week’s Roundup: Pakistan has more glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth. But they are at risk. From The Washington Post: “For generations, the glacier clinging to Miragram Mountain, a peak that towers above the village, has served as a reservoir for locals and powered myriad streams throughout Pakistan’s scenic Chitral Valley. Now, though, the villagers say that their glacier — and their way of life — is in retreat…. With 7,253 known glaciers, including 543 in the Chitral Valley, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 180 million. But as in many other parts of the world, researchers say, Pakistan’s glaciers are receding, especially those at lower elevations, including here in the Hindu Kush mountain range in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Among the causes cited by scientists: diminished snowfall, higher temperatures, heavier summer rainstorms and rampant deforestation.” Read the full story here.   Sherpas Denied Summit Certificates From The Himalayan Times: “The Department of Tourism, under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, has refused to award high-altitude workers summit certificates, citing a clause of the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation that bars them from obtaining government certificates…. He said DoT couldn’t issue certificates to Sherpas as per the existing law, claiming that high-altitude workers are not considered a part of the expedition as per the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation that was framed in 2002. ‘The regulation considers only those who obtain climbing permit by paying royalty to the government as members of an expedition’ [Laxman Sharma, Director at DoT’s Mountaineering Section, told THT]. This is the first time in the country’s mountaineering history that Sherpas have failed to obtain government certificates despite successfully scaling mountains.” Read the full article here.   Ancient Rivers Beneath Greenland Glacier From Live Science: “A network of ancient rivers lies frozen in time beneath one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, new research reveals. The subglacial river network, which threads through much of Greenland’s landmass and looks, from above, like the tiny nerve fibers radiating from a brain cell, may have influenced the fast-moving Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier over the past few million years. ‘The channels seem to be instrumental in controlling the location and form of the Jakobshavn ice stream — and seem to show a clear influence on the onset of fast flow in this region,’ study co-author Michael Cooper, a doctoral candidate in geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. ‘Without the channels present underneath, the glacier may not exist in its current location or orientation.” Full story continued here. Spread the...

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New Study Offers Window into Glacial Lake Outburst Floods

Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

New Study Offers Window into Glacial Lake Outburst Floods

Spread the News:ShareA recent geological study has shed some light on the cause of a major, yet elusive destructive natural hazard triggered by failed natural dams holding back glacial lakes. The findings show how previously unrecognized factors like thinning glacier ice and moisture levels in the ground surrounding a lake can determine the size and frequency of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods, or GLOFs. The risks of these glacial floods are generally considered increasingly acute across the world, as warming atmospheric temperatures prompt ice and snow on mountain ranges to retreat and to swell glacial lakes. Landslides in moraines as triggers of glacial lake outburst floods: example from Palcacocha Lake (Cordillera Blanca, Peru), published in  Landslides in July 2016, centers its study on Lake Palcacocha in the Cordillera Blanca mountain region of central Peru.  Since Palcacocha is one of almost 600 lakes in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range dammed by glacial moraines, the population of the region lives under serious threat of GLOFs. The Landslides article is a step in understanding a previously understudied geological phenomenon.  As little as five years ago scientists acknowledged the lack of research on the subject. “We don’t really have the scientific evidence of these slopes breaking off and moraine stability… but personal observations are suggesting there are a lot of those…” said Ph.D. environmental historian Mark Carey in a 2011 video where he describes GOLFs.   Glacial Lake Outburst Flood risks do not always emanate from mountain glacier meltwater that flows downstream. As this study shows,  in some instances, trillions of gallons of water can be trapped by a moraine, a formation of mixed rock, which forms a natural dam.  A weakening over time, or a sudden event, such as a landslide, could then result in the moraine dam’s collapse. The massive amount of water is suddenly then released, and a wall of debris-filled liquid speeds down the mountainside with a destructive force capable of leveling entire city blocks. GLOFs have presented an ongoing risk to people and their homes dating back to 1703, especially in the Cordillera Blanca region, according to United States Geological Survey records.  In December of 1941, a breach in the glacial moraine restraining Palcacocha Lake led to the destruction of a significant portion of the city of Huaraz and killed approximately 5,000 people. Scientists and government agencies, like the Control Commission of Cordillera Blanca Lakes created by the Peruvian government following the 1941 GLOF, have recognized the need to better understand and control GLOFs.  The study found that as global temperatures rise and glaciers retreat, greater amounts of glacier melt water will continue to fill up mountain lakes, chucks of ice will fall off glaciers, and  wetter moraines will become  more prone to landslides. The team of mostly Czech geologists and hydrologists (J. Klimeš; J. Novotný; I. Novotná; V. Vilímek; A. Emmer; M. Kusák; F. Hartvich) along with Spanish, Peruvian and Swiss scientists (B. Jordán de Urries; A. Cochachin Rapre; H. Frey and T. Strozzi) investigated the ability of a glacial moraine’s slope to stay intact, called shear strength, and modeled the potential of landslides and falling ice to cause GLOFs. After extensive field investigations, calculations and research into historical events, the study found several causal factors that can determine the severity of a GLOF.  These include size and angle of entry of a landslide,  shape and depth of the glacial lake, glacier thickness and human preventative engineering such as canals and supporting dams.  Frequency and size of a landslide is determined by the stability of surface material, a characteristic called shear strength, which can be influenced by something as subtle as the crystalline shape of the predominant mineral in the rock. The scientists determined that waves caused...

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Photo Friday: Scott Conarroe’s Shifting Borders

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images, News | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Scott Conarroe’s Shifting Borders

Spread the News:ShareScott Conarroe’s photography exhibit Frontière, Frontiera and Grenze, displayed at Fine Art Lugano in Switzerland from May 19 to July 29, is in its last week. The title of the work translates to the word border in French, Italian and German. Conarro’s photographic study of the glaciers was inspired by the shifting borders between European countries that were drawn based on glacier boundaries. Global warming has caused retreat of the glaciers and melting of permafrost, which has lead to collapse of the ground below and a shifting of the mountain surfaces and their historic borders. The exhibit is a part of Project Pressure, a charity documenting the world’s vanishing glaciers.  See more of Conarroe’s photographs here.       From Fine Art Lugano: “Photographica FineArt is proud to present, together with the Alpine glaciers’ photographs by Vittorio Sella (1859 – 1943), the latest work by the Canadian photographer Scott Conarroe (1974) that was inspired by the continuous movement of boundaries along the Alps due to the glacial melting and watershed drift.”   Spread the...

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