Posts by paulchakalian

Do Windy Glaciers Melt Faster?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Do Windy Glaciers Melt Faster?

Spread the News:ShareThe relationship between surface winds and glacial melt is more complex than previously thought, according to an article in the journal, Boundary-Layer Meteorology, which used new data collecting techniques. The report by Maxime Litt, Jean-Emmanuel Sicart, and Patrick Wagnon, with the Université Grenoble Alpes, France, and, Warren D. Helgason at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, focused on the tropical Zongo glacier in the mountains of Bolivia. They were able to demonstrate that over mountain glaciers katabatic winds and turbulent heat fluxes, which had not been properly measured in the past, were common with substantial effects on glacial wind, and could have substantial effects on glacial mass. Katabatic winds are a gravity driven wind that occur when air high above the ground is more dense than the air beneath it, causing the air to fall, often down a mountain slope. Glaciers are a common cause of these types of winds because the air directly above the ice is likely to be cooler than the surrounding air at the same altitude, and because cold air is denser, air atop mountain glaciers often falls downhill, creating katabatic winds. By their nature katabatic winds vary with the temperature of the surrounding air, and for this reason do not occur constantly, nor at consistent speeds. This means that the behavior of katabatic winds depends on the weather and climate surrounding the glacier. At the same time that strong winds intermittently blow down glaciers, smaller surface anomalies on glaciers and differences in terrain around glaciers cause air that carries heat to become turbulent, creating different turbulent heat fluxes, or the amount and speed with which air and heat get churned up over the surface of the glacier as the wind moves. As an example, you can think of it as similar to the way farmers will plant wind breaks in their fields to prevent soil erosion. Planting trees and bushes in a field will affect the way that air travels through the field, in this case by preventing strong winds from blowing away top soil. Much as the way that the amount of wind erosion of soil is affected by surface characteristics (a flat field or a field with a line of trees), the amount of glacier melting and sublimation will be affected by the terrain around the glacier and the characteristics of its surface. Previously, scientists had used a method of calculating the effect of wind driven melting which did not consider the effects of changing turbulence and intermittent katabatic winds. On uniform stable surfaces the method previously used, called the “bulk aerodynamic method,” is considered standard. However the researches in this study demonstrated that on mountain glaciers, more precise methods were needed, because of intermittent downhill winds and variability in wind turbulence due to complex terrain features. Using on-site measuring equipment and a six month long real-world study of the Zongo glacier, the researchers demonstrated that the previously unconsidered winds did contribute to the melting and freezing of the glacier. They suggest  that these types of winds should be considered in future studies of glacial expansion and recession. Spread the...

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The Dancing Glacier

Posted by on Jun 16, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

The Dancing Glacier

Spread the News:ShareThe recent recession of the Qollqepunku glacier has ended an ancient ceremonial practice. Because of the rapid melting of the Qollqepunku glacier, and other glaciers in the region, the Ukuku have stopped taking glacial ice during the annual Qoyllurit’i festival and no longer light traditional candles on the glacier. Each indigenous community that attends the Qoyllurití festival designates individuals to play the important role of Ukuku. Half man, half bear, the Ukuku exist somewhere between this world and that of the gods. Dressed in black, singing in falsetto rather than speaking, they are often portrayed as tricksters and are tasked with climbing the sacred glacier to dance and carry blocks of ice down for the pilgrims in the valley. Timothy Allen Ukuku singing on the Qullqip'unqu glacier Timothy Allen Ukuku singing on the Qullqip'unqu glacier Timothy Allen Ukuku hiking up the Qullqip'unqu glacier   Tens of thousands of men, women and children climb to the Sinakara valley, high above Cusco, Peru in a multiple day celebration of Qoyllurit’i (“star snow”) festival every year in early summer. For many, the journey to the mountain starts weeks before in their local villages and towns where they prepare costumes and supplies for what can be many days of walking to get to the base of the valley. Fredy Quispe Singona introduces himself as Puma, his given name as a spiritual leader and shaman in the hills and valleys surrounding Cusco, where he was raised. He has been attending the Qoyllurit’i festival for the last 32 years. In fact, he said he was “one of the first little dancers” to attend the event, “before [him] many children went, but not to dance.” “It is only recently that many people go to the mountain,” he added. “In pre Incan times and in Incan times the festival was not open for everyone, it was only for head leaders of communities and high priests.” According to Puma, the event 14,000 feet above sea level, “celebrates the return of the seven sisters constellation, the Pleiades. It meant for the Andean people the return of abundance to the planet, abundant life energy and prosperity.” The return of the Pleiades constellation to the southern night sky also represents a return to order from the two-month period when it disappears from view in April and May, as well as a lunar marker of the new spring harvest and an upcoming new year. Qoyllurit’i has multiple origin stories, and for many after Spanish colonization the festival took on Christian symbolism. “[Qoyllurit’i] has become very Catholic, meaning in years before people could have their ceremony with the mountains completely Andean– this was the origins of the festival,” Puma told GlacierHub. The pilgrimage pays tribute to regional sacred symbols, the Apus (mountain gods), and Pachamama (mother earth), as well as to Christian symbols of the crucifix and Jesus. As in many other traditions in the region, Spanish colonization has blended with ancient ritual to create a hybridization of both. Nonetheless, the ceremony is undoubtedly a celebration of nature. Even the Christian Lord that the event honors according to Christian mythology is named Lord Qoyllurit’i (Star Snow). “I believe one day we will return to the original meaning of the festival,” said Puma, adding that ultimately during the festival, “people still dance to the sun making a cross, which acknowledges the four directions.” In the local tradition the four compass directions, South, West, North, and East, hold ceremonial significance and each represent specific features of our world. Timothy Allen Abundance offerings at a ceremony during Quyllur Rit'I Timothy Allen Prayers to mountain Apus at Quyllur Rit'I Timothy Allen_6 Pilgrims hiking to Quyllur Rit'I   People from all over southern Peru and many from other parts of the Andes and the world,...

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World’s First Rave Inside a Glacier

Posted by on Jun 10, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, News, Tourism | 0 comments

World’s First Rave Inside a Glacier

Spread the News:ShareIn less than two weeks, seventy people will gather almost half a mile below Europe’s second largest glacier. There, they will dance to an electronic DJ set, and will be served drinks made with glacial vodka and glacial ice cubes. entrance to the Langjökull glacial cave Walkway from the entrance of the Langjökull glacial cave Image of the inside of the ICERAVE Ice Cave People inside the ICERAVE Ice Cave The Langjökull ice cave event, called ICERAVE, is part of the Secret Solstice 2015 festival on June 19-21 outside Reykjavik, Iceland, where thousands of people will party to bands like The Wu-Tang-Clan and FKA Twigs over three days of 24-hour sunlight. The festival’s page states that it is “themed after the Norse religion and mythology of old. It‘s set to deliver a unique party atmosphere filled with great entertainment. The summer solstice was a time of bounty in the lives of the Nordic nations and a cause for celebration. The Norse mythology and religion commonly known as the Asatru is deeply rooted in natural symbolism.” Keeping in line with that intention, the main event is taking place in the Laugardalur recreational area. An open green field, Laugardalur’s name translates to Hot Spring Valley. The festival’s sponsors state “citizens of Reykjavík used to bathe and do their laundry in the geo-thermal hot spot . . . there is a huge swimming pool . . . a botanical garden and a theme park/petting zoo.” Camping is also available for those who want to sleep under three nights of sunshine. After a highly reviewed debut last year, the festival is going even bigger this year, offering many other exclusive side events for those who want a little extra. In fact, this year they’re offering what has been described as the world’s most expensive festival ticket. For $200,000, two people will be flown to a luxury hotel in Reykjavík, helicoptered everywhere else they need to go, given private assistants and cooks, and a private yacht for the weekend. For those who don’t have a quarter million dollars to spend on one weekend, they are also offering a one-night boat party for 100 ambitious festivalgoers. Taking advantage of Iceland’s extreme latitudes and remote location they are also offering a second excursion into nature, the opportunity to attend an all night music event inside a century old, 102ºF natural volcanic hot spring. While partying inside a glacier or a hot spring may not exactly be low impact, and doesn’t scream, “leave no trace,” the festival may prove to be eco-friendly. Last year locals were reportedly throwing away their cigarette butts where they belonged, to the surprise of foreign guests. Already, the ICERAVE event has strict rules in place to not allow overly intoxicated individuals into the cave, and is enforcing a 2 drink maximum. Overall, the festival looks like it will be a great deal of fun for everyone involved. The ICERAVE event is another example of the many different ways people explore the potential of living in a glaciated world, whether by drinking glacial water, or vodka, or dancing inside a glacial cave. You can get tickets to the Festival, here, and to the ICERAVE event, here. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date with all they have going on. Spread the...

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Glacial Runoff: Bane or Boon for Aquatic Life?

Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Glacial Runoff: Bane or Boon for Aquatic Life?

Spread the News:ShareAs glaciers melt around the world, their waters carry high concentrations of sediments into glacial lakes and rivers. That glacial sediment brings some nutrients into the lakes, but also blocks sunlight– the energy source which organisms need to survive. In a recently published paper in The Journal of Plankton Research, titled When glaciers and ice sheets melt: consequences for planktonic organisms, Dr. Ruben Sommaruga of  the University of Innsbruck, Austria, analyzed the relationship between sunlight, nutrients and organisms. Glacial rivers and lakes often appear blue because of the particular mix of minerals and sediments, known as glacial flour, or glacial milk, that gets scraped up when glaciers expand and grind the bedrock surface over which they move. Glacial retreat releases that glacial flour into rivers and lakes at unprecedented rates. At the same time, new glacial lakes and rivers are forming, providing scientists with an opportunity to observe if and how life will thrive in these bodies of water. High concentrations of glacial flour in young glacial lakes makes them  turbid, or cloudy, blocking sunlight. These lakes become clearer as they age, as glacial flour settles to the lakebed. This process increases sunlight penetration in the water. Combined with an increase in other forms of nutrients entering the lake over time, such as bird droppings, this process results in a clear blue glacial lake with a healthy ecosystem. These clear lakes, called oligotrophic lakes, can support plankton and small fish, but do not have many aquatic plants. Eventually, if nutrients keep increasing in oligotrophic lakes, they can develop into highly biologically active lakes, called eutrophic lakes, with abundant aquatic flora and fauna. In order for this eutrophication to occur, organisms at the base of the food chain, particularly  plankton, need to survive in the water during its early phase with low sunlight penetration. Once a lake loses its connection with its original glacier, either because the glacier completely melted or because its runoff ceased, it changes more rapidly from a cloudy glacial lake to a clear oligotrophic lake. The location and size of the lake and glacier influence the pace of this process and the potential for eutrophication. Research on these processes–which integrate climatic, hydrological, chemical and biological components–contributes to a more general understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change. In the article, Dr. Sommaruga states “ . . . estimates based on a scenario where all glacier ice disappears in the Swiss Alps, predict 500 new lakes, which represent 30% more lentic [stillwater] systems for Switzerland. In other regions, such as in northern Patagonia, total glacial lake area has increased by 65% from 1945 to 2011.” This research shows that plankton and other small organisms survive, though not always thrive, in young cloudy glacial lakes and rivers. Future research will extend current understanding of these ecosystems, and trace the implications for our planet’s freshwater ecosystems. Other posts at GlacierHub have described glacial lakes in Switzerland and Greenland. Spread the...

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Roundup: Bubbling Ice, Black Carbon, and Glacial Advance

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Bubbling Ice, Black Carbon, and Glacial Advance

Spread the News:ShareThe sound of glaciers A new article in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, titled Unusually loud ambient noise in tidewater glacier fjords: A signal of ice melt, tracks glacial melt by recording the sounds of the glaciers bubbling underwater in glacial bays. Check out videos of the unique sounds below, and read the article here. http://glacierhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/grl52695-sup-0003-MovS3.mp4   http://glacierhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/grl52695-sup-0004-MovS4.mp4 “After decades of retreat, in the 1980s, many Karakoram glaciers suddenly ‘changed their mind.'” According to Kenneth Hewitt, a glaciologist at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, in Canada, ‘I began to see glacier thickening and advancing that I had not observed in the 35 years of field work before.’ Hewitt called it the ‘Karakoram anomaly,’ and climate-change skeptics made the most of it. Read the full story by Jane Qiu in Science. New Report on Black Carbon in the Peruvian Andes According to the study, tropical glacial melt is rapidly affecting water supplies and high concentrations of “light-absorbing particles on glacier surfaces” are part of the reason. Read the full report here.   Spread the...

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