Posts by gstovall

Glaciers are muddying rivers, with drought to blame

Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Glaciers are muddying rivers, with drought to blame

Spread the News:ShareWater flowing off snow-capped mountains has the image of being absolutely pure, but the rivers and streams of California’s Mount Shasta are unusually brown, and geologists are pointing at drought as the cause. News surrounding the drought in California inundates the media, but we often hear about dying crops and brown lawns. This time it’s the tourism and fishing industries that are up in arms. Paradoxically, the heavy river flows are caused by the same climatic variations that have created drought throughout the state. A dry winter left California’s glaciers exposed to the sun, without their usual protective cover of snow. Hot weather in the summer is rapidly melting them, particularly on Mount Shasta, home to the state’s largest glaciers. The mountain’s porous volcanic soils can absorb some meltwater, but their capacity has been overwhelmed this summer, and the meltwater is causing debris flows, muddying rivers and streams. More commonly known as mudslides, debris flows are flows of water, rock, soil and other organic material that course downslope, becoming destructive torrents when they enter streambeds. They can muddy the waters of rivers that are usually pristine. This year, the rapid melt of the mountain’s south-facing Konwakiton Glacier has left the McCloud River opaque with volcanic ash. These highly turbid rivers are not novel phenomena. In the past century, severe debris flows like the current one have been witnessed seven times, particularly in the 1924, 1926 and 1930, other dry years for the region, when debris flows blocked roads and railroads, rendering them impassible for days. During this period in the 1920s, the McCloud River was unfishable. The murky waters do not harm the fish, but simply make them nearly impossible to catch. Fly fishermen, fly fishing tour guides, and local businesses that relying on tourism fear that the current drought, and the associated glacial melt, debris flows and cloudy waters, will be detrimental to the local economy during the fishing season this fall and in the future years. Some fly fishing groups have already cancelled tours that they had booked—another sign of the cascading effects of glacial melt around the world. For another story on the effects of glacial melt on fisheries, click here. Spread the...

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Emma Thompson’s latest role: climate change activist

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Emma Thompson’s latest role: climate change activist

Spread the News:ShareTwo-time Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson is known for her leading roles in Howards End, Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually and more recently Effie Gray. But her latest role might have the greatest reach: as a real-life activist for climate change Thompson is travelling with Greenpeace across the Arctic aboard the activist ship, Esperanza, which started in Longyearbyen, Norway, and will travel north to the world’s northernmost climate station at Ny Ålesund, and later further past to the edge of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean . While on the Svalbard archipelago in Norway, she visited the Smeerenburg glacier. Thompson has chosen to help highlight Arctic climate issues because, as she says, “the Arctic is warming up faster than anywhere else, and this isn’t just a problem for polar bears. It’s affecting weather in places as far away as India, while rising sea levels are causing havoc for people across the world. Arctic warming is a massive threat to our survival.” It isn’t about the polar bears. Her 14-year old daughter accompanying her on the trip is part of the intergenerational message she is sending. Thompson believes it is a moral issue for people to stand u and demand more climate action from our politicians. “My daughter and her generation are about to inherit the world we’re responsible for… I’m making this trip because I want Gaia’s generation to grow up in a decent and sane world. In fact I’m making it so that her children can grow up.” The Harry Potter actress agrees with Greenpeace in the urgency of international policies to protect the Arctic from oil drilling and industrial fishing, and in the need to keep all peoples safe from climate change. You can see the view from the Esperanza at its webcam and you can learn more and contribute to her cause at savethearctic.org/emma. Spread the...

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SkiFree, a game from the past, has a message for the future

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

SkiFree, a game from the past, has a message for the future

Spread the News:ShareIf you used a PC at any point in the ‘90s, you probably encountered the game SkiFree. To jog your memory, the 16-bit windows game featured a lone skier tirelessly trying to gain “style points” and avoid obstacles such as rocks, trees, snow bunnies and a man-eating yeti. SkiFree, created by Microsoft programmer Chris Pirih in his free time, was recently revamped to reflect present-day concerns. Instead of a snow monster chasing you down the alpine slopes, you and the monster end up at the bottom of the mountain, submerged in water below the bottom of a melting glacier. Countless hours could be spent in any of the original game’s three modes of play: slalom, tree slalom, and free-style. Skiing down the mountain you would lose points by running into trees, rock or yellow snow (yes, the crude humor reflects correctly on the overall tone of the game). Points could be gained by jumping over trees and rock, knocking over snow bunnies, and running over snowboarders. There were also moguls and snow banks for the very skilled virtual skier to catch some air on–all of this controlled from your keyboard number pad. The goal was to accumulate as many style points as possible before the abominable snow monster (or monsters if you were very good) caught up and gobbled you up! Skifreeonline.com hosts a version of the game that you don’t have to download. This retro favorite was released in March of earlier this year. After clicking the link, you are immediately taken to a familiar screen in your browser window. Just after you have remembered how to maneuver and begin to pick up momentum the white slopes are interrupted with a gray cliff and then blue water. Next thing you know, you have joined the yeti bobbing up and down in the ocean. The presence of glaciers has been seen in the virtual sphere before. The online world Second Life has an island with calving glaciers, and we previously mentioned the addictive phone app Glacier Rush [link here when published]. The new version of SkiFree blatantly offers a bit of a reality check to the nostalgic 20 to 50 year olds who popularized the game in the 1990s: “The snow monster is not a real thing. Climate change is.” The abrupt end of play and demonstration of how familiar landscapes we take for granted are changing was effective and direct. Play the original here or check out the revised version reflecting our changing climate here. There is also a free version for the iPhone and iPad on Apple’s App Store. Spread the...

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Scientists find yet another negative impact of glacial melt: ocean acidification

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Scientists find yet another negative impact of glacial melt: ocean acidification

Spread the News:ShareResearchers have recently uncovered previously unknown negative environmental impact of accelerated glacial melt. If reductions in freshwater availability, landslides, outburst floods and sea level rise were not bad enough, ocean acidification can be added to the list. Ocean acidification is a well-known process, though it has not previously been linked to glaciers. Scientists have recognixed that the chemistry of the world’s oceans has been changing as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. About one-third of the carbon dioxide that humans release each year dissolves in the oceans, making them more acid, much as dissolving carbon dioxide in tapwater makes seltzer, its characteristic tartness due to its acidity. This acidification reduces the concentration of carbonate ions that are essential to the formation of the mineral shells of marine organisms, whether large molluscs, corals, or microscopic plants such as plankton. If the saturation level of these ions in seawater falls too low, the shells begin to dissolve. Jeremy Mathis and Wiley Evans, experts in chemical oceanography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Ocean Acidification Research Center, recently published a paper that examines the chemistry of fresh-water plumes from glaciers that directly discharge into Prince William Sound in Alaska. The glacial meltwater accumulates in the sound during the summer, when melting is most pronounced. That freshwater eventually ends up in the Gulf of Alaska, when the tides pick up at the end of the summer. “We are seeing that the glacial plume inside and moving out into the Gulf of Alaska is far more extensive than we thought it was going to be,” said Mathis, “one of our conclusions is that the glaciers are having quite an extensive impact on the water chemistry of Prince William Sound.” They found reduced concentrations of carbonate ions more than 10 miles offshore, as well as other chemical changes that can harm shells. Building on this research, they are leading a project that will send three remotely controlled vessels into Prince William Sound to collect more data on the water chemistry. In this round of study, the additional data will help identify the processes that are occurring due to glacial run-off, and help pinpoint which species are most vulnerable in the Sound. They are also exploring the interactions between the glacier meltwater and the waters of the open seas; these may combine to exacerbate the ocean acidification. As Jeremy Mathis, a lead oceanographer in the study explains, “if the saturation state becomes too low, the waters can become corrosive to shell building organisms.” This has dire implications not only for the organisms themselves, but for the foodwebs within marine ecosystems—and for the humans who depend on healthy ecosystems for fishing. The project, funded partly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is exploring glacially-fed Alaskan waters this summer. It includes two yellow surfboard-like Carbon wave gliders that move across the surface of the water. The Slocum Glider is a yellow torpedo-like sensor that dives underwater to depths of 600 feet capturing profiles of the ocean. The researchers consider this technology a “revolution,” making study the oceans far less expensive and data more available and extensive. In addition, the team will work with tour companies and launch with instruments from those ships. This strategy not only is cost-effective, but also gives the researchers the opportunity to share with the public the environmental issues they are studying. There is a lot at stake in the Prince William Sound and outlying Gulf of Alaska. While their work is valuable in understanding how glacier loss will affect aquatic ecosystems around the world, the loss of marine organisms is a big...

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Photo Friday: Life as a Chilean cowboy in the Andes

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Life as a Chilean cowboy in the Andes

Spread the News:SharePhotographer Peter Haden traveled to Chile in 2007 and shot a photo essay of Leo, a huaso who lives in the Andes. For more photos, visit Haden’s Flickr page. Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at glacierhub@gmail.com. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. Leo the Huaso lives in the Andes mountains of central Chile. A huaso is a Chilean countryman and skilled horseman. They are an important part of Chilean folkloric culture. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. A huaso works his land near San Fernando. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. He is 65 and has lived in the same village all his life. From there, it's a one-and-a-half hour drive to the Pacific Ocean. He has never seen it. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. Leo saddles his horse at Cascada de Animas in Cajon Del Maipo. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. A huaso works his land near San Fernando. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. Leo has fathered six sons by three women in the same town. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. Leo the Huaso lives in the Andes mountains of central Chile. A huaso is a Chilean countryman and skilled horseman. They are an important part of Chilean folkloric culture. Leo the Huaso lives the cowboy life in the Andes Mountains of central Chile. Leo doesn't drink water or eat vegetables. In fact, Leo only eats beef and washes it down with red wine, morning, noon, and night.   Spread the...

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