Posts by Nick Smith

Photo Friday: A visit to South Georgia (the island, not the state)

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: A visit to South Georgia (the island, not the state)

Spread the News:Share“South Georgia has become one of ‘those’ places, so steeped in myth and magic that you wonder how a visit can live up to the stories. Happily the landscape shrugs off any human description. I’m still stunned after visiting for the first time and for just a few precious days, I certainly don’t have words to describe it,” wrote photographer Nick Cobbing on his website, Calvings.co.uk.  See more photos of the wildlife and scenery from Cobbing’s trip to South Georgia and the Falklands here. 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.       Spread the...

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Icelandic Richard Branson touts pure water, but at a cost

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 2 comments

Icelandic Richard Branson touts pure water, but at a cost

Spread the News:ShareIcelandic businessman Jón Ólafsson has some bottled water he wants you to try that’s as clear as can be. In 2003, when Ólafsson owned 85 percent of all the music recorded in Iceland, he decided to call it quits from his telecom and media empire and try something new. Providing what might be one of the only links between music and bottled water, Ólafsson started Icelandic Glacial, a premium brand of mineral water that has found an audience in Hollywood and caught the eye of Christian Dior, all of which earned him the nickname the “Icelandic Richard Branson.” Bottles of Icelandic Glacier water have found their way into TV shows like “Dexter” and the “Big Bang Theory“. In 2012, the bottled water company partnered with Christian Dior to include the water in a line of skin-lightening Diorsnow beauty products available in Asia. Earlier this year, Whole Foods announced the brand could now be found in its supermarkets. Of course, part of the challenge of selling bottled water is you are trying to get people to buy something they can get practically for free. Icelandic Glacier’s marketing revolves around its purported purity; the water comes from the Ölfus Spring in southern Iceland that is made up of snow and rainwater that, according to Ólafsson, “goes through lava and takes between 400 and 600 years to reach the river.” In other words, not from a glacier at all, though this is hardly surprising. Some bottled water companies simply use water from municipal supplies. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said Icelandic Glacier water is “the purest, best, cleanest water there is.” These words show an understanding of different ideas about water. Though scientists can document that distilled water is purer than water from other sources, the strong association of water with nature causes water from remote settings to seem better. And what could be more natural than a glacier from an island like Iceland? The company’s website describes the country as “magical and remarkably pristine.”  Ólafsson may have had some assistance in selecting these adjectives. “Our distinguished partners at Team One captured the essence of Iceland and we’re confident it will be embraced by consumers around the globe,” he said, referring to the advertising group he worked with, a branch of the global advertising giant Saatchi and Sattchi. Ólafsson has said in interviews that his water contains a pH of 8.4, which helps the body balance out acidic, low pH drinks like coffee and alcohol. While the alkaline diet has been touted as a way to combat disease and promote health, there have been limited scientific studies to test the validity of these claims. The company’s website states “We take great pride in running a completely sustainable operation, fueled entirely by geothermal and hydroelectric power.” And it received a “CarbonNeutral” certification from the CarbonNeutral Company, a UK-based consulting group that helps businesses cut carbon emissions through the use of carbon offsets. Offsets themselves are not necessarily reductions in greenhouse gases themselves, but “credits” that can be purchased in projects that reduce such gasses. Nonetheless, the company’s operations pose direct threats to sustainability by encouraging the use of plastic bottles and by promoting long-distance shipping. Of course, Ólafsson’s company is hardly the first to use the cachet of a remote island setting to promote the claim of purity and naturalness in order to market water. Fiji Water bottles its water in the tiny South Pacific nation and ships it all over the world. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Icelandic Glacial water shipped 42 tons of its water to the country....

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When glaciers appeared in a galaxy far, far away

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Featured Posts, Tourism | 0 comments

When glaciers appeared in a galaxy far, far away

Spread the News:ShareRabid Star Wars and glaciologists share at least one thing in common. They both know about the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier in Norway, where scenes set snow planet of Hoth were shot for The Empire Strikes Back. The possibility of returning to Hoth in the new Star Wars movie has been circulating the Internet rumor mill for a few months now, and even in the age of blue screen and CGI effects, there’s something to be said about shooting on location, on a glacier itself, as the first of the series’ sequels did in 1979. Norway’s claim to fame dates to March of that year when crews shooting The Empire Strikes Back were based in the town of Finse during the filming of scenes set on the frozen planet Hoth. The nearby Hardangerjøkulen Glacier was used near the beginning of the film during the battle scene between Luke Skywalker’s Rebel Alliance and Darth Vader’s Imperial forces. Filming during Norwegian wintertime wasn’t the easiest. When the worst winter storm in 50 years hit the area, it trapped the production crew in their hotel in Finse. Not to lose any time, they shot a scene of Luke Skywalker escaping from an ice monster’s cave by sending actor Mark Hamill out the hotel door into the cold, while the cameras and crew remained warmly inside. The village of Finse is so remote that no public roads connect it to the rest of Norway, only a railway. The glacier itself is located in a national park and tourists must travel there not only with special permission, but also a guide that can help them avoid dangerous crevasses. There is a small group of superfans who make the trek out to whatever Earth-related locations stood in for the galaxy far, far away. Brandon Alinger, who has visited several other Star Wars filming sites, recently made the trip up to Finse, but not before stopping in London to chat with Empire Strikes Back location manager Phillip Kohler. “We went up [on these trails] when we were on the recce (film slang for reconnaissance trip), on snow cats,” Brandon recalls Kohler telling him. “We told the driver in front, ‘If you don’t know the way, don’t leave the route, don’t let the guys tell you they want to go to the left’, because it looks safe! So what do they do? We see the snow-cat turn left, turn right, and it suddenly stopped. And the director got out and went straight down on his right leg. We said, ‘told ya, it’s all crevasses.’” The Hardangerjøkulen Glacier isn’t the only Star Wars location difficult for tourists to visit. Production crews have used Tunisa multiple times as the setting for Luke Skywalker’s desert homeworld Tatooine. Recently shifting Saharan sands threaten to cover old filming sets, and the Arab Spring uprisings have scared tourists away. Those looking to travel to Hoth without leaving their front door can find plenty of glacier-inspired Star Wars work. Artist James W. Rook, for example, imagined what it might be like if melting ice revealed a long-missing prop, in this case a crashed rebel snowspeeder. The elements from the Norwegian glacier and surrounding area are even incorporated into Angry Birds Star Wars. As long as Star Wars exists, in some form or another, so will Norway’s glaciers. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Glaciers for all seasons in Patagonia

Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images, Tourism | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Glaciers for all seasons in Patagonia

Spread the News:SharePatagonia’s stunning scenery was the reason this area of southern Argentina became the namesake of the popular brand of outdoor clothing. Photographer Alex Proimos photographed its glacier ice caves, mountain lakes and the impressive Fitz Roy mountain in 2011. See more pictures from his trip in his Flickr gallery. 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. _MG_2434 El Chaltén, a well-known spot for trekking and hiking, is a small village of 1,000 people located 216 km (134 miles) from El Calafate. Its tourist infrastructure is very limited and intended for hikers. Most of the expeditions to the Fitz Roy and Torre mountains depart from here.(Alex E. Promios/Flickr) _MG_2822 The Glacier and Cerro Torre. (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) IMG_2640 Fitz Roy and the Lagunas. (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) _MG_2124 Perito Moreno Tour Boat (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) IMG_2116 Perito Moreno Glacier Ice Cave (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) _MG_2075 Glazing at the Ice. (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) IMG_1998 A trip to this imposing glacier gives you a chance to walk on the ice wearing cleats and to see and hear a truly astounding spectacle: blocks of ice rupturing and floating away as icebergs. (Alex E. Promios/Flickr) Spread the...

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Humans (surprise!) biggest cause of glacier loss

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 2 comments

Humans (surprise!) biggest cause of glacier loss

Spread the News:ShareIt’s not quite a “Planet of the Apes” moment, where humans suddenly realize (like Charlton Heston realizing he was on Earth all along) that they themselves were the cause of climate change. A new report in the recent edition of the journal Science is as sobering as it is simple: Humans didn’t used to be the main cause of glacier loss, but now they are. The study, appearing in the August 22, 2014 issue of Science, covers glaciers during the period from 1851 to 2010. Though the worldwide glacier retreat began in the middle of the nineteenth century, people weren’t the primary driving force behind the ice loss until late 1970s. Prior to that point, the world was just coming out of a cooling period known as the Little Ice Age. Though not a true ice age, this cold period lasted roughly from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria and Trent University in Canada used many different climate models to estimate snow accumulation verses snow and ice melt. From 1950 to 1980, natural climate change accounted for about three-quarters of glacial ice loss. From 1991 to 2010, humans were responsible for 70 percent of glacial retreat. Of course, there are uncertainties in the study, as whenever models are used to infer what happened in the past. As climate models and measure techniques improve, so will the resolution of the numbers highlighted by the study. “Glaciers are superb measuring sticks of climate, because they ignore the fluctuations of day-to-day weather,” wrote Shawn Marshall in Science‘s summary of the study. The findings do not suggest that without the influence of humans, there would be no sea level rise or glacier retreat. “Our results indicate that a considerable fraction of 20th-century glacier mass loss, and therefore also of observed sea level rise, was independent of anthropogenic climate forcing,” wrote the study’s lead author, Ben Marzeion, associate professor at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck. Measuring glacier loss certainly isn’t a new thing. The American Meteorological Society’s 2013 state of the world’s climate report singled out the dire situation mountain glaciers are facing: since 1980, glaciers have lost 50 feet of water. Glacier calving (breaking off into the sea) greatly contributes to sea level rise. Meltwater coming off mountains are browning rivers in California and causing ocean acidification. Though the news seems dire, providing firmer measures of the extent to which humans contribute to ice loss may help build the impetus to find effective solutions to climate change. In the meantime, glaciers will continue to offer testimony to our species’ impacts on our planet. Spread the...

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