Posts by Manon Verchot

France and Italy Argue Over Disputed Glacier Territory

Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

France and Italy Argue Over Disputed Glacier Territory

Spread the News:ShareDisputed territory on Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, raised buried tensions between Italy and France earlier this month after the mayor of Chamonix, in France, blocked off access to a dangerous glacier on what Italians claim as their own territory. The Mayor, Eric Fournier, closed a gate at the entrance of the Giant Glacier at 3500 meters, saying the route beyond it was unsafe. For years the French and Italian sides have argued about access to the area, which the French consider too dangerous for climbers. The Italians, who installed the gate, say warning signs should be enough to discourage inexperienced climbers. Every year, 30,000 people attempt to climb the mountain and about 20 climbers died in 2014 alone. “[The French] removed hazard signs that we had put in place after the massive influx of tourists in recent months,” Fabrizia Derriard, mayor of Courmayeur in Italy, told the Independent. “They also closed the gate, which makes it dangerous for climbers who now have to climb over a barrier to get to the other side.” Both countries disagree about where France ends and Italy starts. France claims its territory extends to the start of the glacier while Italy claims French territory begins 300 meters away. The Giant Glacier is not the only glacier that caught in the middle of territorial disputes. When Ötzi the Iceman, a mummified body from 3300 BCE, was found in a glacier in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria, disputes about which country Ötzi should belong to arose. Though he was found by Austrian climbers, Ötzi was eventually placed in a museum in Italy. On the border between India and Pakistan, the Siachen Glacier is in disputed territory. One year ago, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the glacier after the two countries exchanged fire over the glacier and took 20 civilian lives. As dynamic landscape features that melt and shift, glaciers can  create problems if governments have decided to make them serve to delimit borders.  Glaciers also tend to be high in the mountains and can be difficult to access, so they are not always mapped with the precision that international agreements may require. The dispute over the three peaks of Mont Blanc has been going on for 150 years, in a region of the world that is well-mapped and that has strong international institutions. It thus serves as a reminder that other glacier regions may provoke international disagreements, starting with issues as small as the location of a gate. Spread the...

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Beer Funds Glacier Research

Posted by on Sep 23, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Beer Funds Glacier Research

Spread the News:ShareWhat do you get when you mix research with a beer company? Deja Brew, the taste of a 1962 batch of Kokanee beer. In exchange for five liters of meltwater from 1962, the Kokanee Beer company agreed to contribute $10,000 dollars to fund glacier research by Dr. Brian Menounos of the University of Northern British Columbia. The money has been given with no strings attached, Menounos told GlacierHub. “We don’t endorse products but welcome any industry to contribute to funding research,” he said. “Glaciers are a shared resource and if we can get the word out about why the public should care about them, all the better.” Like rings within tree trunks, layers within glaciers indicate snowfall from year to year. From these layers, Menounos was able to find ice at the depths associated with the year Kokanee beer was founded, so that a limited edition glacier beer could be brewed from ice from snow that fell then. Menounos hopes this collaboration will call attention to the urgency of melting glaciers worldwide. “Like many environmental topics we can’t wait for policy makers to act,” he told GlacierHub in an email. “Politicians typically get elected for four year. Human-induced climate change has accumulated over the past 200 years and will continue unless we commit to substantial mitigation of greenhouse gases. The public’s involvement and interest in a particular topic makes politicians sit up and take notice.” For a number of years, Menounos has studied the effects of climate change on glaciers in the Cariboo Mountains. His research suggests that by the end of the century, Western Canada’s glaciers will shrink by 70 percent of 2005 levels. Every year, the Zillmer Glacier shrinks by 60 to 70 centimeters. Kokanee beer will contribute further to this research with the funding. The exchange also allows the company to revive its beginnings. “Because we were able to grab some of the remaining ice from Dr. Menounos, we were able to, in spirit, look at recreating one of the first-ever batches of Kokanee,” Candy Lee, Kokanee brand manager, told CBC news. Spread the...

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Worms Contribute to Soil Ecology After Glacier Retreat

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Worms Contribute to Soil Ecology After Glacier Retreat

Spread the News:ShareThe rock, gravel, sand and fine particles that are trapped under glaciers for millennia undergo major changes as glaciers retreat. Once they are exposed to the atmosphere, they are colonized by a variety of organisms and develop soils. They shift from having relatively few species of bacteria to developing more complex ecosystems. Studying nematodes — or roundworms — communities in these soils can provide insight into the stages of ecosystem development as the worms respond differently to vegetative changes from grasslands to forested areas, a recent study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found. The types of nematodes found in soil can also give insights about soil health, the authors found. Though they may not look very impressive, nematodes are complex creatures. More than 25,000 species have been identified and have been known to adapt to a large variety of environments — from terrestrial to watery ecosystems, from salty to fresh habitats, and from northern to southern longitudes. The Hailuogou Glacier on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau in China has retreated 1.8 kilometers in the 20th century, according to glaciologist Mauri Pelto. Because of the glacier’s rapid retreat, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences were able to observe 120 years of plant regeneration in seven different stages. In phase one–the first 3 years after soil is initially exposed–mosses, small plants and grasses begin to grow. During phases two, three and four, or years 3 through 40, grasses eventually become replaced by shrubs and low trees. In phases five, six and seven, from 40 to 120 years after exposure, mature forests develop. Samples of these phases were taken from seven different sites and analysed for pH balance, phosphorus and nitrogen content. Nematodes were extracted from the samples. The researchers found that while all these changes were occurring above ground, dynamic changes were also occurring beneath the surface. As the soils first developed, levels of soil phosphorous increased, and fungi-eating nematodes were dominant. In later stages, these nematodes were replaced with bacteria-eating nematodes; this shift is likely a response to the improvement of soil quality. But by the seventh phase, soil health began to decrease, and the researchers noticed the return of fungi-eating nematodes, species that survive well in poor soil conditions. Nutrient availability at this later phase began decreasing, suggesting that the ecosystem was entering a retrogressive phase. “Further research should be conducted to determine the most efficient approach to integrate plant succession, nutrient availability, and soil bacterial and invertebrate community dynamics into models of ecosystem development and succession,” the researchers concluded. “These models would be helpful for prediction and management of nutrient limitation during long-term soil development.” It will be interesting to see whether the patterns of changing nematode populations in the glacier forelands in China are similar to those in other areas. It will also be of importance to framing climate change policy, since the expansion of vegetation in areas formerly covered by glaciers has the potential to sequester carbon dioxide. Spread the...

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Second US Presidential Visit to a Glacier

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Second US Presidential Visit to a Glacier

Spread the News:ShareUnited States President Barack Obama visited a glacier near Seward Tuesday during a trip to Alaska, making him the second American president to make an official visit to a  glacier. On his trip, Obama took the opportunity to discuss the effects of climate change with Alaska Natives, fishermen and residents of the northernmost state. “We view this as part of a broader and longer-term effort by the president and the administration to speak openly, honestly and frequently about how climate change is already affecting the lives of Americans and the strength and health of our economy, and also what we can do individually and collectively to address it,” Brian Deese, Obama’s climate, conservation and energy adviser said. The President and his staff hiked to the Exit Glacier, where markers show the glacier’s retreat in recent decades. Climate change has caused the glacier to retreat an estimated 1.25 miles. #ObamaAK Live blog: @POTUS visits Exit Glacier near Seward http://t.co/dJIexiUziW pic.twitter.com/DSPmhVvY1A — Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) September 1, 2015 Throughout Alaska, Native communities are struggling to adapt to the effects of climate change. Communities that rely on subsistence hunting find that their ability to harvest meat is dramatically declining as sea ice thins. Dozens of communities are forced to consider relocating as sea level rise  and increased storm surge threaten their towns, a move which would cost millions of dollars. In many ways, Obama’s visit to the Exit Glacier is a marked contrast from the visit that brought President Warren G. Harding to Alaska in 1923. During Harding’s visit, 5-inch shells were shot into the Taku Glacier to trigger glacial calving. But there are some parallels. Both presidents promoted an extension of transportation into new areas.  Harding pounded the golden spike that completed the Alaska Railroad that linked Seward and Anchorage on the coast with Fairbanks and other towns in the interior. Obama proposed an expansion of the US Coast Guard’s fleet of icebreakers, to help the US keep up with other countries, such as Russia and China, which are increasing their presence in the Arctic Ocean. Petroleum issues may be the strongest connection between the two visits. Harding’s visit came a year after one of the best-known events in his administration, the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which private oil companies were granted very favorable leases to drill on government lands in the West. The secrecy of the leases caused a public uproar, as did the allegations of bribery. Obama’s visit comes at a time when issues of drilling are once again attracting considerable attention, this time in the Arctic Ocean, and when concern has been expressed over the influence of campaign contributions by energy companies. Presidents and prime ministers from other countries have also visited glaciers on official trips. Anote Tong, president of Kiribati traveled to a glacier in Norway ahead of Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York in September 2014. The island-nation is rapidly disappearing under water as sea levels rise. Other presidents have visited glaciers for reasons not related to climate change. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Siachen Glacier, the site of an old battlefield in disputed territory between India and Pakistan. In 2013, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera Echenique visited the Union Glacier in Antarctica. There, Echenique expressed his interest in contributing to scientific development and tourism on the southernmost continent. Obama’s recent visit to Alaska came with a strong message about climate change. “We are not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough,” he said at the GLACIER conference in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday. “The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. It’s not enough to just have...

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Roundup: Glacial Sounds, Rhythms and Reactions

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Roundup: Glacial Sounds, Rhythms and Reactions

Spread the News:ShareFlutist Claire Chase Captures Glaciers in Music Claire Chase performs “Glacier,” a piece by Japanese composer Dai Fujikura. “…in Chase’s performance of “Glacier” (2010), a solo for bass flute by Dai Fujikura, her breath floated audibly above much of the music, giving it a ghostly quality,” New Focus Recordings writes. “With subtle changes in the angle of the mouthpiece, she was able to invoke the sound of more ancient types of flutes made out of wood, bamboo and stone.” Check out the rest of the album here. El Niño Linked to Glacier Mass Balance in Peruvian Andes “The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major driver of climate variability in the tropical Andes, where recent Niño and Niña events left an observable footprint on glacier mass balance […] We find a stronger and steadier anti-correlation between Pacific sea-surface temperature (SST) and glacier mass balance than previously reported. This relationship is most pronounced during the wet season (December–May) and at low altitudes where Niño (Niña) events are accompanied with a snowfall deficit (excess) and a higher (lower) radiation energy input.” Read more here. Communities in Tajikistan Threatened by Glacier Retreat “The rapid loss of small glaciers worldwide might result in mountain villages changing from having plenty of water during the growing season, to facing a scarcity even in scenarios with adaptation […] A 2010 participatory case study in the Zerafshan Range, Tajikistan, disclosed a local lack of awareness of climate change and its consequences […]The case study revealed high risks of massive out-migration from mountain villages if adaptation starts too late: countries with a high proportion of mountain agriculture might see significant losses of agricultural area, a reduction in food production and an increase in conflicts in areas where immigration occurs.” Read the full study here. Spread the...

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