Posts by Sarah Kai Zhen Toh

A Living Piece of History: An Outdoor Ice Rink in New Zealand

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Sports | 0 comments

A Living Piece of History: An Outdoor Ice Rink in New Zealand

Spread the News:ShareThe remains of an outdoor ice rink near Mount Harper/Mahaanui in New Zealand offer insight into the establishment, use and decline of what may have been the largest outdoor ice rink in the Southern hemisphere. The privately built rink on South Island was a popular social amenity from the 1930s to the 1950s, playing an important role in the development of ice hockey and skating in the country, as detailed in a heritage assessment carried out by Katharine Watson for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC). A combination of interviews, secondary sources and an archaeological survey were used to inform the history of the rink present in the assessment. Mt. Harper ice rink lies in the lee of the mountain (the side that is sheltered from the prevailing wind) that gives it its name, at the foot of the glacier-clad Southern Alps of New Zealand. It was built in the early 1930s by Wyndham Barker, the son of a minor member of the English gentry who lived in Canterbury and learned to ice skate while studying in Europe, as explained in the assessment. The rinks no longer contain any ice and some now contain vegetation, but the bunds (earth mounds) surrounding the ice rinks can still be seen. Many of the original buildings, such as the ticket office, toilet block, skate shed, a hut built to house the Barker’s cow, Sissy, and the Barker’s house are still standing. The rink was first built in the summer of 1931-1932 and was fed by water from a nearby stream. However, its original location was too exposed to the nor’westers (strong north-westerly winds that are characteristic of Canterbury in New Zealand), which rippled the ice. Barker subsequently moved the rink closer to Mt. Harper, building the rink by allowing controlled layers of ice to build up over many nights. The rink’s first major public season took place in the winter of 1934. A hydropower scheme was also installed in 1938 to power lights for skating at night, while allowing water to be sluiced onto the ice if necessary. “The whole landscape is really legible today, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place,” Watson explained to GlacierHub.  “These kinds of sites are very important records of the myriad ways in which human societies have used, interacted with, and taken advantage of seasonal ice over time,” added Rebecca Woods, a professor of the history of technology at the University of Toronto. “An archeological site like Barker’s rink would be a candidate for a cool virtual reality tour along the lines of a New York Times 360° video.” The potential of the site to tell the story of outdoor ice skating and ice hockey in New Zealand has been identified by the DOC. “The designation of the site as an Actively Conserved Historic Place recognizes this and entails a commitment to maintain the key buildings and structures in the expectation that despite being fairly isolated, the difficulty of access may change some time in the future,” shared Lizzy Sutcliffe, a representative from the DOC. The rink was subdivided over its first few years of use, with up to seven rinks existing in the 1940s. One reason for doing this was that the ice was not freezing well. It also allowed one of the rinks to be dedicated to ice hockey, which Barker was passionate about. In fact, he was an important figure in the history of ice hockey in New Zealand, establishing the Erewhorn Cup, an ice hockey tournament that persists to this day. “The main focus of the...

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Roundup: Siberia, Serpentine and Seasonal Cycling

Posted by on Jan 16, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Siberia, Serpentine and Seasonal Cycling

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Siberian Glaciers, Vegetation Succession and Sea Ice   Glaciers in Siberia During the Last Glacial Maximum From Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology: “It is generally assumed that during the global Last Glacial Maximum (gLGM, 18–24 ka BP) dry climatic conditions in NE Russia inhibited the growth of large ice caps and restricted glaciers to mountain ranges. However, recent evidence has been found to suggest that glacial summers in NE Russia were as warm as at present while glaciers were more extensive than today… We hypothesize that precipitation must have been relatively high in order to compensate for the high summer temperatures… Using a degree-day-modelling (DDM) approach, [we] find that precipitation during the gLGM was likely comparable to, or even exceeded, the modern average… Results imply that summer temperature, rather than aridity, limited glacier extent in the southern Pacific Sector of NE Russia during the gLGM.” Read more about the study here.     Plant Communities in the Italian Alps From Plant and Soil: “Initial stages of pedogenesis (soil formation) are particularly slow on serpentinite… Thus, a particularly slow plant primary succession should be observed on serpentinitic proglacial (in front of glaciers) areas..Ssoil-vegetation relationships in such environments should give important information on the development of the “serpentine syndrome” .Pure serpentinite supported strikingly different plant communities in comparison with the sites where the serpentinitic till was enriched by small quantities of sialic (rich in silica and aluminum) rocks. While on the former materials almost no change in plant species composition was observed in 190 years, four different species associations were developed with time on the other. Plant cover and biodiversity were much lower on pure serpentinite as well.” Read more about “serpentine syndrome” here.     Carbon Cycling and Sea Ice in Ryder Bay From Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography: “The carbon cycle in seasonally sea-ice covered waters remains poorly understood due to both a lack of observational data and the complexity of the system… We observe a strong, asymmetric seasonal cycle in the carbonate system, driven by physical processes and primary production. In summer, melting glacial ice and sea ice and a reduction in mixing with deeper water reduce the concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DIC) in surface waters… In winter, mixing with deeper, carbon-rich water and net heterotrophy increase surface DIC concentrations… The variability observed in this study demonstrates that changes in mixing and sea-ice cover significantly affect carbon cycling in this dynamic environment.” Read more about carbon cycling in West Antarctica here.   Spread the...

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Krill Contribute to Ocean Carbon Storage in Patagonia

Posted by on Dec 27, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Krill Contribute to Ocean Carbon Storage in Patagonia

Spread the News:ShareWaters in the sub-Antarctic region of Chilean Patagonia are fed by glaciers in one of the largest freshwater systems on Earth, the North and South Patagonian Icefields. A recent study published in Marine Ecology Progress Series found that Euphasia vallentini, the most abundant species of krill in Chilean Patagonian waters, play a key role in food webs. The study also discovered that this species of krill helps to sequester carbon in the oceans— they consume plankton, which take in carbon during photosynthesis, and discharge some of the carbon into deeper ocean waters through the production of fast-sinking fecal pellets. This is increasingly important as atmospheric carbon concentrations rise, as it contributes to the role of the oceans as a carbon sink. Krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans that are found in all of the world’s oceans. In an interview with GlacierHub, Humberto E. González, the lead author of the study from the Austral University of Chile, explained that krill form “a trophic [related to food and nutrition] bridge between the microbial community [bacteria, nanoplankton, microzooplankton] and the upper trophic layers [seals, whales, penguins, etc.]. Thus, they play a pivotal role in trophic flows.” The study by González et al. focused on the region between the Magellan Strait and Cape Horn because of the unique biological, chemical and physical conditions created by the hydrological input from three different sources: nutrient-rich Pacific and Atlantic Sub-Antarctic Waters (waters that lie between 46°– 60° south of the Equator), and cold and nutrient depleted freshwater from Patagonian rivers and glaciers. Waters that are more saline or that are colder have higher densities. However, as explained in the study, the effect of salinity exceeds the effect of temperature on density within this region, giving rise to strong saline stratification in the mixture of oceanic and freshwater terrestrial environments. This reduces the movement of important species between the benthic (the lowest level) and pelagic (open water) ecosystems in southern Patagonia. The stratification also reduces upward and downward mixing of ocean water. This reduces carbon fluxes in the region, as the transport of carbon dioxide to deeper parts of the ocean through diffusion across layers occurs more slowly than the circulation of ocean waters with different carbon dioxide concentrations. The team of scientists embarked on a research cruise in the region in October and November 2010, collecting chemical and biological samples at about forty different stations. Using a variety of techniques, they studied features such as the types and distribution of organic carbon in the waters, and the abundance and diet of E. vallentini. All this was done to better understand the role of E. vallentini in the region’s food web structures and in the transport of carbon to deeper layers of the ocean despite strong stratification. In conversation with GlacierHub, González stated that “the species of the genus Euphausia (a functional group of zooplankton) play a paramount role in many disparate environments from high to low latitude ecosystems. Euphausia superba in the Southern Ocean and Euphausia mucronata in the Humboldt Current System are some examples.” In this study, González et al. found that E. vallentini play a similarly important role in Southern Chilean Patagonia, consuming a range of plankton from nano- to phytoplankton and forming the dominant prey of several fish, penguin and whale species. The study also found that E. vallentini play an important role in passive fluxes of carbon through the sequestration of carbon in fast-sinking fecal pellets, or poop. The plankton ingested by E. vallentini takes in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and about a quarter of the plankton ingested by E. vallentini...

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Glacier Loss Threatens Stoneflies in Glacier National Park

Posted by on Dec 13, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Glacier Loss Threatens Stoneflies in Glacier National Park

Spread the News:ShareGlaciers in the Rocky Mountains are undergoing rapid retreat, threatening two remarkable insect species that live in streams fed by glacial meltwater. Lednia tumana (meltwater stonefly) and Zapada glacier (Western glacier stonefly) have recently been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act due to the threat that climate change poses to their habitats. A recent study by J. Joseph Giersch et al. published in Global Change Biology offers insight into the factors that influence the distribution of these species, providing valuable information for conservation efforts. In an interview with GlacierHub, Giersch, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), said, “Findings from our research were used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to inform the listing decision for the two species.” The study took place in Glacier National Park, Montana, where regional warming has had serious effects. Surveys of glacial extent revealed that 80% of glacial mass within the park has been lost since the 19th century, with full recession predicted over the next two decades, according to Paul Carrara in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. This creates the need for a better understanding of glacier-dependent species such as the stoneflies and ecological implications of species loss. The team of researchers led by Giersch sampled the alpine stream network within Glacier National Park between 1996 and 2015, tracking the abundance of nymph (the immature form and second stage of the life cycle) and adult Lednia tumana and Zapada glacier. Samples of Lednia tumana were found in a total of 113 streams within the park, while Zapada glacier was only detected in 10 streams, six within the park and four within other parts of the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. Both species of stonefly are endemic to the region around Glacier National Park and are range-restricted. Their distributions were found to be related to cold stream temperatures and proximity to glaciers or permanent snowfields, with survival “dependent on the unique thermal and hydrologic conditions found only in glacier-fed and snowmelt-driven alpine streams,” according to the study. An interesting feature of both Lednia tumana and Zapada glacier is that they are aquatic in the egg and nymph stages of their life cycles, before becoming terrestrial adults. The adult females lay eggs in short sections of cold alpine streams found directly below glaciers and permanent snowfields within the park. The whole life cycle can last from one to two years. When the stonefly’s eggs hatch, the nymphs swim or drift along the alpine streams, feeding and growing until they emerge as fully grown adults in July or August. The short-lived adults are weak fliers, so they tend to be found on streamside vegetation. Male and female adult Zapada glacier communicate and find each other by drumming (tapping specialized structures in their abdominal segments on the material at the bottom of the stream). After finding each other, they mate and the females lay eggs in the streams, re-starting the life cycle process. Mature Lednia tumana nymphs tend to be about a quarter of an inch-long, while adults are slightly smaller, according to the USFWS. As alpine glaciers in Glacier National Park disappear as a result of climate change, meltwater contributions to alpine streams will decrease, changing the temperature and hydrological regimes that both stonefly species, particularly in the egg and nymph stages, depend on. “The loss of permanent cold water to their native habitat may eventually result in the extinction of these species. Additionally, a shorter-term effect could be a decrease in population connectivity due to cold water dependent species migrating upstream in response to warming temperatures,”...

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Roundup: Volcanoes, Cryoseismology and Hydropower

Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Volcanoes, Cryoseismology and Hydropower

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Kamchatka, Cryoseismology and Bhutan   Activity in Kamchatka’s Glacier-Covered Volcanoes From KVERT: “The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) monitors 30 active volcanoes of Kamchatka and six active volcanoes of Northern Kuriles [both in Russia]. Not all of these volcanoes had eruptions in historical time; however, they are potentially active and therefore are of concern to aviation... In Russia, KVERT, on behalf of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (IVS), is responsible for providing information on volcanic activity to international air navigation services for the airspace users.” Many of these volcanoes are glacier-covered, and the interactions between lava and ice can create dramatic ice plumes. Sheveluch Volcano currently has an orange aviation alert, with possible “ash explosions up to 26,200-32,800 ft (8-10 km) above sea level… Ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft.” Read more about the volcanic warnings here, or check out GlacierHub’s collection of photos from the eruption of Klyuchevskoy.   New Insights Into Seismic Activity Caused by Glaciers  In Reviews of Geophysics: “New insights into basal motion, iceberg calving, glacier, iceberg, and sea ice dynamics, and precursory signs of unstable glaciers and ice structural changes are being discovered with seismological techniques. These observations offer an invaluable foundation for understanding ongoing environmental changes and for future monitoring of ice bodies worldwide… In this review we discuss seismic sources in the cryosphere as well as research challenges for the near future.” Read more about the study here.   The Future of Hydropower in Bhutan From TheThirdPole.net: An interview with Chhewang Rinzin, the managing director of Bhutan’s Druk Green Power Corporation, reveals the multifaceted challenges involved in hydropower projects in Bhutan. These challenges include the effect of climate change on glaciers: “The glaciers are melting and the snowfall is much less than it was in the 1960s and 70s. That battery that you have in a form of snow and glaciers up there – which melts in the spring months and brings in additional water – will slowly go away…But the good news is that with climate change, many say that the monsoons will be wetter and there will be more discharge,” said Rinzin. Check out the full interview with Chhewang Rinzin here. For more about hydropower in Bhutan, see GlacierHub’s earlier story. Spread the...

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