Posts by paulchakalian

Photo Friday: Washington State Glaciers

Posted by on Jan 15, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Washington State Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareOver winter break from my PhD program in Arizona, I traveled to Washington State to visit my partner’s family and see old friends. While there, the strong El Nino event affecting global weather this year contributed to persistent high pressure in the region– causing unusual clear blue skies for days on end. The rare winter clarity provided unprecedented views of the region’s beautiful glaciers. Washington State is home to some of the country’s youngest and tallest mountains– the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. The Olympic Range was created by the movement of the Cascadia subduction zone millions of years ago, while the Cascade range, made up of active volcanic peaks, is driven by the same tectonic subduction. Puget Sound and islands in it, which separate the two mountain ranges, are the remnants of glacial valleys and moraines that were created during the last ice age. Mt. Rainier over the Puget Sound Mt. Rainier over the Puget Sound. Image by Paul Chakalian Glaciers atop The Olympic Mountain Range Glaciers atop The Olympic Mountain Range over the Puget Sound and a WA State Ferry. Image by Paul Chakalian Mt. Rainier Mt. Rainier from the air. Image by Paul Chakalian Glaciers atop The Olympic Mountain Range Glaciers atop The Olympic Mountain Range from the SeaTac airport. Image by Paul Chakalian WA State Cascade Range and Mt. Baker WA State Cascade Range and Mt. Baker from the air. Image by Paul Chakalian Mt. Rainier from Vashon Island, WA Mt. Rainier from Vashon Island, WA. Image by Paul Chakalian 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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El Niño is Melting Glaciers, Flooding California

Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

El Niño is Melting Glaciers, Flooding California

Spread the News:ShareRecent research has suggested an increasingly important role between the pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on natural phenomena around the globe, including glacial melt variability. These relationships are particularly strong when the PDO and ENSO are in-phase, as they are now. One study by Bijeesh Kozhikkodan Veettilab, Nilceia Bianchinic, Ulisses Franz Bremerab, Éder Leandro Bayer Maierd, and Jefferson Cardia Simõesa looked at the formation of supraglacial lakes on the Baltoro Glacier in the Pakistani Himalayas from 1978 to 2014. Using a combination of various satellite images the study demonstrated that most of the lakes formed or expanded during the late 1970s to 2008, and that after 2008 the number and size of the lakes decreased. They discovered that, “the formation and expansion of glacial lakes occurred during the warm regime of PDO, in particular in phase with the ENSO,” and that the shift in 2008 corresponded precisely with the onset of a cool phase of the PDO. The PDO is primarily a sea surface temperature phenomenon that oscillates in the Pacific Ocean, usually switching from a warm or positive phase to a cool or negative phase every 20-30 years. In the positive phase the Eastern Pacific, along the West coast of the Americas is unusually warm, while the Western Pacific along the East coast of Asia is unusually cool. During the negative phase the opposite occurs. The PDO is often described as a long lasting ENSO-like event. ENSO is what is commonly referred to as El Niño and La Niña, a sea surface temperature oscillation in the southern Pacific Ocean that is a strong predictor of precipitation anomalies, and therefore drought or flooding, around the globe. In fact, this summer we are seeing a strong El Niño, also known as a positive ENSO, corresponding with a strong, positive PDO. Researchers have known or suspected since the early 20th century that El Niño brings strong rains along the United States’ west coast. However, we now know, thanks to the results of the study on the Baltoro Glacier, that the formation and expansion of glacial lakes in the Karakoram Himalayas also occurs during the warm phase of the PDO, in particular when it is in phase with ENSO. What this means is that the same events that are the likely cause of recent heavy rains and storms hitting Southern California are also likely causing increased glacial melt in the Himalayas. According to The Weather Chanel, “Los Angeles, San Diego and over a dozen other California cities set all-time rainfall records for the month of July.” In fact, a National Weather Service meteorologist described these recent rains as “super historic.” Researchers are beginning to pay more attention to sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean, and around the globe, as we are realizing that they influence everything from strong storms in California to glacial melt in the Himalayas. The PDO was only relatively recently discovered, found in 1997 due to its influence on Pacific Northwest salmon production. Understanding what scientists call teleconnections between these various natural phenomenon can help us better prepare ourselves for the volatile environment in which we live. Knowing ahead of time that when Southern California will have heavy storms, mountain villages in the Himalayas should be wary of glacial lake flooding, can help save time, money, and lives. Spread the...

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Roundup: Glacial Drone Photography, Art, and Inventories

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Roundup: Glacial Drone Photography, Art, and Inventories

Spread the News:ShareNew Randolph Glacier Inventory 5.0 This newest global inventory of glacier outlines was motivated by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and supplements the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space initiative (GLIMS). “GLIMS’ mission is to establish a global inventory of ice that will provide the community with data for later comparison.” Their website says that, “Monitoring glaciers across the globe and understanding not only the cause of those changes, but the effects, will lead us to a greater understanding of global change and its causes.” Check it out, here. Drone Glacier Photography David Kaszlikowski has been using his drone to captur stunning images of glaciers from above. He recently unveiled a new photo documentary titled K2 Touching the Sky. The documentary captures the experience of the children of alpinists who died on K2 in the Karakorum Mountains, when they return to the ice. Check it out below: The Intersection of Art and Glacial Retreat Jerilynn “M” Jackson gives five examples of a glacier-ruins narrative, which she describes as “a narrative about glaciers that tends to overlook the existing state of a glacier and/or glacier systems and speaks instead to imagined states of loss.” Check out the whole article, here. Spread the...

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Mountains Turning into Frozen Human-waste Lands

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, News, Tourism | 0 comments

Mountains Turning into Frozen Human-waste Lands

Spread the News:ShareDealing with tourists’ waste is always a problem; they usually have a lot of disposable goods and aren’t necessarily invested in the area they’re visiting. The problem doesn’t start and stop with trash, however. Where to put tourists’ natural waste is an important matter for local governments and planners. This issue becomes especially important in higher altitudes where organic material does not break down easily, or quickly, on account of the cold, low-oxygen environment that typifies higher elevations. On glaciers the issue is complicated further. Though burying human waste in soil is often the official leave-no-trace procedure, burying bodily waste in ice only preserves it–when the ice melts, it’s still there. As glaciers retreat, more and more human waste is becoming uncovered. This problem is occurring worldwide, as adventure travel and glacial retreat are both increasing. On Everest, for example, the popularity of the climb has resulted in severe impacts to the mountain’s ecology. And on Mt. McKinley, “climbers generate over two metric tons of human waste annually,” according to a paper by Katelyn Goodwin, Michael G. Loso and Matthias Braun. Most of this waste gets deposited into crevasses. When waste is deposited into a crevasse, the natural movement of the glacier will ultimately force the waste to the glacier’s edge, where it remains preserved. These same problems plague the Americas’ tallest peak, Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, where the regional park has recently invested more substantially in solving their human waste problem. Since 2005, visitors to the Mt. Aconcagua Park in the Argentine Andes have been told to pack out their own waste, usually back to base camp. However, getting it out of the park is not easy. The procedure involves substantial logistical efforts and expense, since waste is removed from base camp by helicopter. In addition, conservationists are concerned that a lack of rangers present to enforce these policies is causing ongoing pollution into glacial lakes and rivers, many of which feed downstream into water systems actively used by human populations. According to a paper by Sebastian Rossi and Agustina Barros, Human Waste Management in Aconcagua Provincial Park: Description and Main Limitations, “Each summer more than 30,000 people visit Aconcagua for sightseeing and 7,000 for mountaineering and trekking.” And because the Mt. Aconcagua peak is the highest in the Western and Southern Hemispheres, every year the park draws larger and larger crowds. According to the paper, “The number of visitors has had a regular increase of 10% annually since the year 2000.” For this reason, a major campaign has been launched to address the waste problem. At the same time, similar campaigns are underway at high elevation peaks around the world, including on Mt. Everest. The Mt. Aconcagua Park includes several camp sites at various elevations. Though basic pit latrines in lower camp sites were slowly replaced with full septic systems in the early 2000’s, park mangers recently found that the newly installed septic systems are not working as expected due to frigid temperatures preventing the natural breakdown of organic waste. So far there is nothing the park authorities can do about the septic tanks which are already installed. Even if they wanted to remove the tanks, they are now too heavy to be carried out by helicopter, which is the only way into or out of base camp. In addition, there have been growing problems in higher elevations where septic is impossible. There, the park mangers must rely on pack out polices that are never 100% effective because they are hard to enforce. Though there are rangers present in the park, mangers worry there are too few to enforce the waste polices. Trekking guides can be another...

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Would you SCUBA dive under Antarctica?

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Sports | 4 comments

Would you SCUBA dive under Antarctica?

Spread the News:ShareThe Antarctic Dive Guide by Lisa Eareckson Kelley tells you everything you need to know about visiting the 7th continent from an underwater perspective. According to the book, diving under ice first started over 100 years ago when divers still used heavy suits and brass helmets to stay dry, while getting their oxygen from ships on the surface. Today, divers use lightweight flexible suits and SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) gear that allows them to do much more under the water, all while deployinh modern technology to stay in communication with the surface and document what they find via underwater cameras and hydrophones. Though Antarctica may seem like a barren place, cold water upwelling under the icecreates some of the most nutrient-rich waters in the world’s oceans. These conditions breed beautiful creatures of all shapes and sizes that an adventurous diver can get up close and personal with. Though nutrient-rich, the water is very cold, and most animals that have adapted to survive in the harsh conditions are smaller than their lower-latitude cousins. Nonetheless, close encounters between Antarctic divers, surface tourists and seals, penguins and whales are not uncommon. Kelley’ s dive guide lays out all your options for getting to the 7th continent, whether by cruise ship or private charter, and all the safety and regulatory guidelines to keep in mind if you are planing on going under the surface. The book goes over the best places to dive off the coasts of Antarctica. Tourists and experienced adventurous alike can get to Antarctica for anywhere from $8,000-$30,000 or more depending on the type of trip. According to Kelly, approximately 35,000 people visit the island each year. The cost is mostly determined by the size of the ship one takes. Larger cruise ships where you would spend all your time on the boat cost the least, while smaller expedition ships with only a couple hundred people, where you would spend much more time on small inflatable boats commonly referred by the proprietary eponym “Zodiacs,” exploring the actual Antarctic landmass, cost more. Privately chartered ships that are often partially wind driven will offer the most flexibility and time ashore, these types of ships will run the most expensive. Diving under the water requires more experience than your average tourist on holiday. Kelly recommends that only very competent and experienced SCUBA divers attempt the cold waters and high-stakes environment. Everything is more difficult in the cold, you risk frost bite on exposed skin, you grind your teeth on your respirator, batteries for dive computers die faster, and valves and regulators are more prone to failure from the below-freezing temperatures. Knowledge on self rescue is a must, as is the ability to breath through a freely flowing regulator, which is apparently one of the most common problems faced in the frigid water. A freely flowing regulator is a condition where the compressed air you breath is no longer decompressed to surface pressure, making it harder to breath easily. Skills like these are essential to a safe trip, as is bringing extra gear, including a dry suit, warm layers, and doubles of all your valves, gaskets etc… Unlike diving on the mainland or tourist islands, there are no dive shops to run into if you need a replacement part in the Antarctic seas. Lastly, Kelly recommends making sure you have medical or trip insurance that specifically covers medevac from anywhere in the world, and covers high risk activities like SCUBA diving, which many polices explicitly exclude. If you need rescuing, medevac could cost more than six figures, and take over 48 hours, so it’s best to be prepared before embarking on the trip. Also important to keep in mind are leopard seal...

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