Posts by Nellie Van Driska

Photo Friday: NASA’s Operation IceBridge

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: NASA’s Operation IceBridge

Spread the News:ShareNASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s ongoing operation called IceBridge uses manned aircraft to study polar ice. IceBridge serves to bridge the gap between NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and NASA’s second generation of the satellite (ICESat-2) which is scheduled to launch later this year. The six year operation is the largest airborne survey of  Earth’s polar ice, and collects data about ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice in Greenland and the Antarctic. The goal is to document annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets along with collecting information to help with the modeling the effect of climate change on Earth’s polar ice, specifically in connection to possible sea-level rise. IceBridge Airplanes fly over Greenland between March and May and in  over Antarctica between October and November. Smaller airplane surveys of ice around the world are also included in the IceBridge operation.       Pic from today's #IceBridge flight: Network of supraglacial meltwater drainage channels. pic.twitter.com/hlUvPQky5y — NASA ICE (@NASA_ICE) May 18, 2016   Spread the...

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Scientists Look to Locals for Climate Change Study

Posted by on May 18, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Scientists Look to Locals for Climate Change Study

Spread the News:ShareClimate change data is usually collected by scientific instruments and satellites, but a recent study in Nature Climate Change reveals the importance of collecting observations made by local communities. The observations of subsistence-oriented communities indicate that climate change is threatening local food security by impacting animals and plants integral to the continued survival of these communities. For the research paper, titled “Observations of climate change among subsistence-oriented communities around the world,” author Valentina Savo and five co-authors compared 10,660 observations from 2,230 localities in 137 countries with historical model simulations of climate change. The researchers analyzed local literature dating between 1994 and 2013 to explore relationships between climate and the perceptions of local peoples. Such observations from local communities are sometimes labeled Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which is defined as knowledge that is passed down for generations about the community’s environment and cultural interactions with that setting. Even though satellite data and global climate models can accurately observe and predict climate change effects like drought and vegetation depletion, scientists have little reliable data on secondary climate change impacts. This includes information about the effects of drought on local animals, and how local animal population loss impacts rural communities. The authors state that methods such as theirs which document the  impacts that climate change is having on local ecosystems can provide material for predictions of fine-scale climate change impacts. Furthermore, effective strategies can be created to help adapt to climate changes. This study focused on subsistence-oriented communities, which are defined as communities that “include indigenous and non-indigenous people who depend on natural resources for their livelihood and cultural identity.” The communities where observations were made were spread across the globe, but the Pacific Islands, central Africa and the North American Arctic accounted for the largest percentages of observations. Many cases were also drawn from the Himalayas and the Andes, where communities are reporting multiple changes in plant and animal species attributed to drier weather and warmer temperatures and retreat of glaciers. The researchers collected information on changes in weather, changes in physical landscape, and changes in ecosystems. This includes climatic conditions, resource abundance, and weather patterns. Some of the best examples of climate change impacts can be seen in the coldest climates. For example, increasing temperature combined with decreasing snowfall are the most common observations among communities in Arctic and sub-Arctic northern locations. In Sweden, changes in temperature, weather, and ice formation have led traditional Sami herders to abandon some of their herding practices. In Alaska, the coast is eroding at an increased rate due to reduced sea ice and more storms. Snowfall, permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice are all singled out in Figure 1 as being in decline. Furthermore, increased temperatures are impacting the oceans, changing fish and marine mammal migration on which the communities rely. Alaskan fisheries have seen an alarming number of sharks, jellyfish and other species that are typical of warmer waters. While migrating ocean wildlife is continuing to shift to deeper or higher-latitude waters, land plants and animals are following the same pattern, shifting either north or to higher elevations to escape the increasingly warmer latitudes or altitudes. Previous research has noted broad consistency in observations made by local subsistence-oriented communities and local instrumental data. This reinforces the value of local observational data, which fills gaps left by sparse instrumental data. It is important that science recognizes the observations made by subsistence-oriented communities. Models and satellites cannot tell you how winds and ice conditions link together to inform animal behavior, but the community that lives with these conditions can. By collecting and comparing information from local communities, we can...

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‘Foreign Policy’ Salutes the Cryosphere

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Science | 0 comments

‘Foreign Policy’ Salutes the Cryosphere

Spread the News:ShareLast month, a Foreign Policy column focused on security issues turned its attention to the cryosphere. The writer, Sharon Burke, a senior advisor at the New America foundation and former Obama administration official, began by pointing out the “aesthetic pleasure” of the term “cryosphere”: The word sounds like some kind of secret realm, possibly involving dead people, but it’s really ice, snow, glaciers, and permafrost. The cryosphere is all the frozen places on Earth, or more specifically, all the frozen water on Earth. There’s just one problem with the magical ice kingdom: It’s melting. Burke then focused on a new study (the New York Times covered it in late March) about the Antarctic ice sheet, and the implications that could have for the billions who live in places where the waters will rise. According to the study, published in the journal Nature in March 2016 and called “Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise,” the Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a much faster rate than previously thought. This melting ice ends up in the Earth’s oceans, contributing to sea level rise. The study uses updated modeling, which includes details about rocks and glaciers, to establish projections of future Antarctic ice sheet loss. The authors say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, the West Antarctic ice sheet will start to break apart by the year 2050. The model includes melting from both below and above the ice sheets, by including the impact from warmer ocean currents underneath ice sheets and warmer temperatures in the atmosphere. The improved model reproduced ancient historical sea levels more accurately than previous models, focusing on a period  125,000 years ago, when the oceans were 20 to 30 feet higher. This success supports the model’s ability to accurately predict future sea levels. But the Antarctic ice sheet is not the only factor influencing sea level. Sea ice, land glaciers, and permafrost are also melting at a rate that contributes to the disappearance of the cryosphere and contributing to rising oceans. Sea level rise is a very large problem for the human populations located in the vulnerable coastal zones. The Times article points out that New York, a city founded roughly 400 years ago, is unlikely to remain intact for the next 400 years. Cities like Miami, London, Hong Kong, and Sydney are also likely to feel the rising tides. But the populations in the most danger are those outside in the developing world. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, provides an example. It is one of the most populated cities in the world, with 15 million people, and is located at sea level. According to the study, the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet could mean more than three feet of sea level rise, leaving limited alternatives for populations at risk. Costly solutions like sea walls and augmented infrastructure are out of the reach of the poorest cities. This leaves them in the greatest danger, with few options. Spread the...

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Roundup: Fungus, Hydropower, and Microbes

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Fungus, Hydropower, and Microbes

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news.   Fungal Biodiversity in the Periglacial Soil of Dosdè Glacier From The Journal of Basic Microbiology: “Periglacial areas are one of the least studied habitats on Earth, especially in terms of their fungal communities. In this work, both molecular and culture-dependent methods have been used to analyse the microfungi in soils sampled on the front of the East Dosdè Glacier (Valtellina, Northern Italy). Although this survey revealed a community that was rich in fungal species, a distinct group of psychrophilic microfungi has not been detected. Most of the isolated microfungi were mesophiles, which are well adapted to the sensitive climatic changes that occur in this alpine environment. A discrepancy in the results that were obtained by means of the two diagnostic approaches suggests that the used molecular methods cannot entirely replace traditional culture-dependent methods, and vice versa.” Read more here.   Review of Climate Change and the Impacts on Cryosphere, Hydrological Regimes and Glacier Lakes From FutureWater Report: “The climate, cryosphere and hydrology of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region have been changing in the past and will change in the future. In this literature review, the state of knowledge regarding climate change and its connections to changes in the cryosphere and hydrology has been investigated, with a specific focus on impacts for hydropower development. From historical trends in climate it is clear that air temperature has been increasing in the HKH region over the past decades. Rates of increase are different for daily mean air temperature, maximum air temperature and minimum air temperature. Temperature in the higher elevations increased more over time than temperature in lower elevations. Historical precipitation trends on the other hand show no significant increasing or decreasing trends overall, but the trends vary locally.”  Read more here. Microbial Communities in Alpine Soils From Frontiers in Microbiology: “Microbial communities in alpine environments are exposed to several environmental factors related to elevation and local site conditions and to extreme seasonal variations. However, little is known on the combined impact of such factors on microbial community structure. We assessed the effects of seasonal variations on soil fungal and bacterial communities along an elevational gradient (from alpine meadows to a glacier forefield, 1930–2519 m a.s.l.) over 14 months.” Read more about microbial communities found on glaciers here. Spread the...

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New Study Warns: Rapid Sea Level Rise, Superstorms Likely

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

New Study Warns: Rapid Sea Level Rise, Superstorms Likely

Spread the News:ShareExisting climate change assessments could be underestimating the amount of future sea level rise, as well as the likelihood of other phenomenons like increased superstorms and glacier loss, warns a new high-profile paper in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The study, by longtime climate scientist James Hansen and 18 co-authors, has gained attention recently for its radical projections of climate change impacts. To conduct research for the paper, titled Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous, Hansen and the other authors combined ancient climate data with new satellite readings and an updated climate model to show that ice melt is occurring more quickly than previously thought. Instead of incrementally melting, the ice sheets around the Earth’s poles actually melt at a non-linear rate, losing mass rapidly, according to Hansen and his team. “We have uncovered information and a partial understanding of feedbacks in the climate system, specifically interactions between the ocean and the ice sheets. These feedbacks raise questions about how soon we will pass points of no return, in which we lock in consequences that cannot be reversed on any time scale that people care about. Consequences include sea level rise of several meters, which we estimate would occur this century or at latest next century, if fossil fuel emissions continue at a high level,” Hansen says in a video released about the paper. “That would mean loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history.” Hansen notes that a positive feedback loop is created as ice melt influences the structure of the ocean’s layers. As cold freshwater runoff from exit glaciers flows into the ocean, it lowers the density of the surface water. This change of density shuts down the normal circulation in which cold salty water sinks and brings warm water to the surface, releasing the heat it carries into the atmosphere. But when heat stays in the ocean at a depth where ice shelves contact the trapped warm water, a feedback loop occurs. The warm water next to the deep ice makes the ice melt even faster. Thus the ice melt in these regions causes further loss of ice sheets in direct contact with the ocean, which contributes to more rapid movement of exit glaciers and to faster sea level rise. In addition to quickening ice melt, the feedback loop also contributes to shutting down the ocean’s circulation, trapping warm water between layers of cold water in polar regions. The feedback loop creates a greater temperature gradient by increasing temperature differences between high and low latitudes, which increases the likelihood of superstorms. Earth’s ice sheets are melting quickly, and the rate of melt is also expected to increase exponentially. As a result, we could see the sea level rise up to five meters, or about 16 feet, by the end of this century if no emissions reduction actions are taken. This puts many of the world’s coastal cities in danger of flooding, including cities like Miami, London, New York, Miami and Shanghai. The paper forecasts a greater increase in sea level within a shorter period of time than other research has found. In its 2013 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the U.N’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts closer to three feet of sea level rise occurring at or after 2100. “The models that were run for the IPCC report did not include ice melt,” Hansen said at a news conference. But the paper has received criticism. Hansen and the other...

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