Posts by Sam Inglis

Photo Friday: Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images, Interviews | 1 comment

Photo Friday: Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier

Spread the News:ShareIt started with a road trip. A “bucket-list trip,” according to Tish  Millard, a photographer from Prince Rupert, Canada. Millard and her husband decided to drive the over 4,660 miles there-and-back, along the the Alaskan and Dalton highways to “dance in the Midnight Sun,” as she puts it. They passed through Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez, Wasilla, and crossing into the Arctic Circle, before arriving at Matanuska. Speaking to GlacierHub, Millard said that her passion for glaciers came from her time in the unique town of Stewart-Hyder, and visits to the nearby Salmon Glacier. Remarkably, is the only land border crossing where a person may legally enter the United States without reporting for inspection, as the settlement spans the American-Canadian border. Matanuska is 27 miles long, and over 4 miles wide – making it the largest glacier in America that can be reached by vehicle. Remarking on her first reactions upon arriving at the terminus of Matanuska, Millard said she was “transfixed by the glacier’s beauty.” But it was the creaks, cracks, rumblings, and groans coming from the glacier which made their greatest impression – “The noises it made were mystical.” To top off the “unforgettable experience,” Matanuska was the first glacier Millard had ever walked on – she described it as “surreal.” The surface of the glacier is a beautiful pale blue, mantled by snow and streaks of black soot – detritus blown across the state from wildfires. It is heavily crevassed, which can make certain traverses challenging and dangerous. Deeper into the glacier, climbers from Anchorage regularly clamber up hundreds of feet of jagged pinnacles of ice. Three-and-a-half trillion tons of water have melted from Alaska’s glaciers since the 1950s, according the USGS. And they are unlikely to recover this year, as Spring temperatures averaged a sweltering 89.6°F – warmer than Washington D.C. Jake Weltzin, a phenologist with the USGS, commented that this year has “turned the state into a melting pot, almost literally.” Historically, the Matanuska has been little affected by rising temperatures over the past 30 years, and consistently advances approximately one foot each day. However, with consistent record-breaking temperatures, early onset of the melt season, and lowering surface albedo thanks to the deposited wildfire debris, the this may be the year that significant retreat begins. Spread the...

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Damming Switzerland’s Glaciers

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Damming Switzerland’s Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareAn estimated 80 percent of Switzerland’s annual water supply will be “missing” by 2100, as glaciers in the Alps retreat under rising temperatures. A recent study by Swiss and Italian researchers addresses this anticipated loss by exploring whether dams could replicate the hydrological role of glaciers. Like glaciers, the dams would contain and store meltwaters at high elevations in the valleys where the glaciers once resided. The authors, Daniel Farinotti of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Alberto Pistocchi of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Matthias Huss of the University of Fribourg, call the approach “replacing glaciers with dams.” Their method seeks to harvest the diminishing glaciers’ waters to maintain Europe’s water supply and contribute to power generation.  . The trio of authors are glaciologists and hydrologists, with expertise in chemistry, engineering, and resource management. Between them they have over 260 published works. Suffice it to say, they know what they are are talking about. Speaking to GlacierHub, Pistocchi said that the idea occurred to him during one of his many cycling trips across the Alps. The possibility gripped him, and he began searching for colleagues in the field of glaciology to help him run scenarios on the future health of glaciers. He met with Huss, who had “recently investigated in depth the contribution of glaciers” to Alpine water resources. Farinotti was soon invited to provide an engineer’s perspective. They studied how to “artificially sustain” the role of glaciers within the local hydrological cycle. The idea simply capitalizes on the natural processes already in motion. Meltwaters from glaciers naturally fill depressions, forming glacial lakes, or, if unimpeded, flowing into local rivers. Farinotti and his team were interested in determining how practical it would be to impound the runoff from melting glaciers with dams at the high elevations where the ice remains intact. They proposed that the glacier meltwater which accumulated would serve a similar role as the glacier had, as they would conserve the water and manage its release during drier seasons, thus maintaining a steady supply, and exploiting the newfound stores for power generation. They found that while extensive melting will continue to provide meltwater from the European Alps in the near future, there are considerable logistical, financial, technical, diplomatic and bureaucratic hurdles to damming and storing it there. Farinotti and his colleagues concluded that while their proposed strategy could preserve sufficient volumes to meet Europe’s water demands through 2100, the supply scheme is unavoidably “non-renewable.” The source glaciers’ volumes are finite, as is the quantity of water that could be dammed. Accordingly, without an additional strategy for replenishing the stores (i.e. pumping in Austria) in the high reaches of the Alps, the supply would eventually run out. Between 1980-2009, glaciers supplied continental Europe with approximately 1,400 trillion gallons (5.28 km3) of freshwater per year — about 1 percent of the total volume consumed by the United States each year. The majority (75 percent) of the melt occurs (unsurprisingly) at the height of summer, from July through September. Rivers flowing from the Alps received considerable contributions from the glaciers at this time every year. During the peak, six percent of the Rhine, 11 percent of the Po, 38 percent of the Inn, and 53 percent of the Rhône comprise glacial meltwater, according to Farinotti and his colleagues. As many modelers do, Farinotti and his colleagues examined the impacts of a range of climate change scenarios on the Alps’ glaciers. They projected the probable volumes of meltwater, and health of glaciers in response to optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic concentrations of greenhouse gases...

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Roundup: On Glaciers This Week: Raves, Yoga and Kayaks

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Sports, Tourism | 0 comments

Roundup: On Glaciers This Week: Raves, Yoga and Kayaks

Spread the News:ShareIcelanders Celebrate Solstice with Glacier Rave From The Daily Beast: “Sure enough, there he was: a man dressed in a head-to-toe panda costume running toward the bus and waving his hands, a sweaty tornado of furry stress, desperate not to miss the bus that would transport him to the Langjökull Glacier—and the 500-meter tunnel that will take him to the party held 25 meters beneath the icy surface. “This is the second year that the Secret Solstice festival has held the special event. Whispers of last year’s party—not to mention the insane photos—helped land not just the excursion, but Iceland’s four-day music marathon itself, on the top of the must-attend list in the world’s festival circuit.” Read more here. Indian Army practices Yoga on Siachen Glacier From Business Standard: “The second International Day of Yoga was celebrated by Army’s Fire and Fury Corps today at the Siachen Glacier, along with several other high-altitude forward locations in Leh and Kargil. “The Indian Army has incorporated Yoga Asanas into the daily routine of the soldier in High Altitude Areas deployed in harsh climatic conditions. “Practice of Yoga by soldiers in such an environment helps them to combat various diseases such as high altitude sickness, hypoxia, pulmonary oedema and the psychological stresses of isolation and fatigue.” Read more about it here.   Film-maker kayaks in Vatnajökull Glacier’s lake From Vine.co: Watch film-maker Henry Jun Wah Lee explore the Vatnajökull Glacier, and its proglacial lake by kayak. More stunning footage here. Spread the...

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Military intervention at Nepal’s fastest growing glacial lake

Posted by on Jun 22, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 1 comment

Military intervention at Nepal’s fastest growing glacial lake

Spread the News:ShareTen kilometres south of Mount Everest lies Nepal’s “fastest-growing glacier lake”— Imja Tsho. In March 2016, acting to mitigate potential threats the lake might pose to over 96,000 people downriver, the Nepalese Army began installing syphons to lower the water level by 10 feet (3 m). The army’s engineering department, commissioned by Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), is now conducting “the highest altitude disaster risk mitigation work ever performed by any army in the world,” according Lt Col Bharat Lal Shrestha. Locally, the remediation will bolster the confidence of flood-prone communities, and is likely to assuage fears of downstream developers, which have been concerns elsewhere in the region. The soldiers can only work two to three hours a day, due to the thin air, and strain of working at 16,400 feet (5,000 m). The project aims to safeguard lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure throughout Solukhumbu District — home to Mount Everest and the major religious site of Tengboche Monastery — as well as further downstream. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) — the world’s largest fund addressing environmental issues — are financing the US$7.2 million remedial works at Imja Tsho,  often cited as an especially dangerous lake. This has been reinforced by local perceptions and its proximity to Everest’s trekking routes. A report by the  BBC in June 2016 claimed that the 2015 Gorkha earthquakes “may further have destabilised” the lake. However, the results of ’Rapid Reconnaissance Surveys’ made public in December 2015 revealed “[Imja] showed no indication of earthquake damage when viewed either by satellite or by a helicopter.” The UNDP and GEF’s selection of Imja pivots on a single study by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) from 2011, which defies much of the preceding and independent research on the lake. ICIMOD is an intergovernmental agency headquartered in Kathmandu, researching Nepal’s glaciers and mountains hazards and also involved  in the current engineering works. Studies by Japanese, British and American teams concluded that the surrounding topography shelters Imja from mass movements. ICIMOD deprioritized Imja’s status. Their 2011 national report stated, “[despite] the apparently alarming rate of [Imja Tsho’s] expansion…the danger of outburst came to be regarded as far less than originally expected.” Concurring with the international researchers, they also ruled out the possibility of a GLOF-triggering ice avalanche as ”[not] very likely.” The lead authors of the 2011 study subsequently gave compelling evidence in 2015 for remediation at another glacial lake — Thulagi Tsho. Narendra Raj Khanal and six colleagues from ICIMOD revealed Thulagi posed a “high risk.” Over 164,000 people would be directly impacted by a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), with a further 2 million indirectly exposed — four times the number at Imja. Threats to hydropower facilities were a key concern highlighted by UNDP and GEF. However, there are six hydropower projects below Thulagi, and one below Imja. Imja is being drained 10 feet (3 m) over 4 years — costing nearly US$7 per gallon. However, research led by the University of Texas has shown that this minor reduction would have a negligible impact on a GLOF. Daene McKinney and Alton Byers also stated that it offered an insignificant “3 percent risk reduction.” Imja Tsho presently covers 135 ha (1.35 km2), holding nearly 20 billion gallons (75.2 million m3) of meltwater — enough water to meet all New York State’s water needs for nearly two and a half days. It is fed by Imja Glacier, which has wasted 1.4 miles (2.2 km) over less than 40 years. Imja Glacier has “exhibited the largest loss rate in the Khumbu region,” according to...

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US & China Research Coordination at the Third Pole

Posted by on Jun 9, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

US & China Research Coordination at the Third Pole

Spread the News:ShareA major conference highlighted significant evolution in research and international cooperation across the world’s so-called “Third Pole”. The Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC) hosted the “Third Pole Environment Workshop”, which featured 80 researchers from 15 countries, specialised in researching Earth’s “Third Pole”. It was the sixth event since 2009. The Third Pole (TP) comprises 1.9 million square miles (5 million km2) — equivalent to over half of the continental United States — centered over the Tibetan Plateau. It extends from the Pamirs of Tajikistan, along the length of Hindu-Kush Himalayas, through to the Hengduan, Kunlun and Qilian mountain ranges of China. The “Third Pole Environment (TPE) Workshop” — held at The Ohio State University on May 16-18 — was a rare opportunity bringing together specialists from around the world who “share an interest in the Third Pole region and wish to communicate their latest research results”, said the conference’s first circular. GlacierHub caught up with Dr Paolo Gabrielli – a Principal Investigator and ice core specialist at Ohio State University’s BPCRC. He credited the TPE series’ success to the “longstanding collaboration and friendship between The Ohio State University’s Professor Lonnie Thompson, and the Institute of the Tibetan Plateau Research’s Professor Yao Tandong.” The American-Chinese duo began their pioneering work on China’s glaciers in the 1980s, before “the importance of studying glaciers and their connection to climate change” had been realised. Asked about his impressions of the research being conducted at the TP,  Dr Gabrielli remarked that “the study of the TPE region is still at the beginning.” However, “impressive monitoring programs” have been established, especially on the Tibetan Plateau. He believes that whilst it is “still too early to draw firm conclusions,” the data presently being gathered will bear significant fruits in years to come. Understanding the TP is critical, as changes there have regional and global impacts. In addition to being the source region for rivers which sustain over 1.5 billion people across ten countries, the TP “significantly impact[s] climate systems in the northern hemisphere and even the whole globe,” remarked Professor Yao Tandong in his opening address. It is also home to thousands of glaciers which cover over 38,600 square miles (100,000 km2). The conference was the sixth in a series which has been bringing international experts together since 2009. It was supported by familiar names, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The cryosphere and hydrosphere are central components of the TPE workshops, however, experts who research the atmosphere, biosphere and anthroposphere (a ‘sphere’ of Earth specifically modified or made by human activity or habitats) were also represented. Professor Lonnie Thompson — a founding father of the TPE initiative — stated, “The Third Pole Environmental program is an international, multi-disciplinary collaboration among scientists, students, engineers, technicians, and educators.” Building on this sentiment, Professor Thompson said, he “hoped that the TPE office will serve as a home base for collaborative research, as well as fulfil one of TPE’s most important missions: international collaboration through training of young scientists.” Dr Gabrielli revealed that students “were financially supported…[enabling them] to take part [in] this conference. ” Asked what he thought the most pressing issues facing the TP are, Dr Gabrielli said, “The continuity of…freshwater (both in terms of quantity and quality) in the future is the main concern.” Whilst the research may well be in in its early phases, clear and troubling trends have already been revealed. Temperature projections indicate that the region will be subject to a minimum increase of 1°C, and as high...

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