Posts by Sophia Hill

Roundup: Blue Lakes in Antarctica, Yak Dung and River Gauges in Asia

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Blue Lakes in Antarctica, Yak Dung and River Gauges in Asia

Spread the News:ShareThis Week’s Roundup: Blue lakes on an East Antarctic glacier are a troubling sign, scientists say From Yahoo News: “British researchers have discovered a troubling trend in East Antarctica: As air temperatures become warmer each summer, more and deeper lakes are showing up atop Langhovde Glacier. Their study, published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to monitor the meltwater pools for an extended period of time in that part of the icy continent.” Click here to learn more about this troubling trend. Yak dung is helping melt Tibetan glaciers From Forbes: “Scientists had long assumed that India and China—two of the world’s leading sources of black carbon pollution—were responsible for what fell on the glaciers in Tibet and the Himalayas[….] Instead, he found that a lot of the black carbon is local. While power plants in China and fires in India do contribute black carbon, in the remote interior of the Tibetan Plateau it appears to come mostly from burning yak dung and other immediate sources.” Click here to read more about the small but mighty power of yak dung.   Pakistan expands glacier monitoring in effort to cut disaster risk From Thomson Reuters Foundation News: “Pakistan will invest $8.5 million to expand a network of glacier monitoring stations tracking the pace of glacial melt in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, in an effort to strengthen early warning systems and reduce the impact of flooding in the South Asian country.” Click here to learn more about Pakistan’s new glacial monitoring research program. Spread the...

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When Glaciers Melt, Engineers Build Artificial Ones

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts | 0 comments

When Glaciers Melt, Engineers Build Artificial Ones

Spread the News:ShareArtificial glaciers may not serve as a permanent solution to glacial melting, but the technology is still helping subsistence farmers in high mountain ecosystems continue farming with diminishing water supplies, according to a new study from the University of Massachusetts and the University of Pittsburgh. For the past three decades, certain Himalayan communities have used artificial glaciers, engineered systems that rely on gravity and freezing temperatures to collect and store a seasonal stock of ice in the wintertime. This allows the increasingly water-scarce region to cope during the summertime. This technology, designed to harvest and regulate water in dry, desert regions that face rapid glacial melting, has been utilized in nine different Himalayan communities since their invention in 1987. During the summertime, the accumulated ice block slowly melts to provide downstream communities a seasonal water supply in the absence of glaciers.   Scientists and engineers have long written about the promise of artificial glaciers to adapt to climate change. In 2014, GlacierHub published an article about discussions about importing artificial glacier techniques to Oregan to cope with glacial loss. However, little research exists to substantiate their actualized benefits. The new study aims to fill this gap and show how useful this technology has been and could prove to be in the future. The study examined six artificial glaciers in the high, dry Himalayan mountains of Ladakh, India, located the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The region, which receives only 100 to 250 mm of precipitation annually, has historically relied on glacier melt water to irrigate its subsistence agriculture crops. Seventy percent of the region’s workforce depends on farming for their livelihoods. Future glacial melt during the summertime threatens the community’s natural water supply, as well as subsistence agriculture production. Ladakhi civil engineer Chewang Norphel designed the first artificial glacier in 1987 for the village of Phuksey in North India. He garnered the nickname “Ice Man” after building eleven more artificial glaciers in the region. The technology usually costs from $6,000 to $22,000 to build, much less than other water infrastructure costs in the area, the study notes. Artificial glacier design and construction hasn’t yet been standardized, according to the study. Engineers have tested new structures, such as diversion channels, regulator gates, and retaining pools, but continue to test structures through each new project. After their construction, the structures are usually managed by NGOs. Of the six separate artificial glacier sites examined in the study, three were in operation and three were abandoned or not in use. The study aimed to investigate the factors that influenced the artificial glaciers’ respective performances in Ladakh. The most successful artificial glaciers were located in a north-facing, shaded valley, placed at an altitude of roughly 4,000 meters, and close enough to the village for water access, maintenance, and operation, the study concluded from its six case studies. The study emphasizes a need for better design and construction of artificial glaciers, as well as more robust management and upkeep. The three artificial glaciers no longer in use failed because of faulty construction or a lack of upkeep, according to the study. Regardless of their design, artificial glaciers can only serve as a temporary solution to water shortages, the study argues. “While they may be useful in the short term as a means of stretching the dwindling water resources available to mountain communities, in the long term, artificial glaciers will be vulnerable to the same environmental stresses that impact nature glaciers,” wrote lead author Carey Clouse in an email to GlacierHub. Artificial glaciers can only operate with the presence of a natural host glacier....

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Glaciers Serve as Radioactive Storage, Study Finds

Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Glaciers Serve as Radioactive Storage, Study Finds

Spread the News:ShareThe icy surfaces of glaciers are punctured with cryoconites – small, cylindrical holes filled with meltwater, with thin films of mineral and organic dust, microorganisms, and other particles at the bottom of the hole. New research conducted by Polish scientists reveals that cryoconites also contain a thin film of extremely radioactive material. The study confirms previous findings of high levels of radioactivity in the Arctic and warns that as Arctic glaciers rapidly melt, the radioactivity stored in them will be released into downstream water sources and ecosystems. The study, headed by Edyta Łokas of the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences and researchers from three other Polish universities, was published in Science Direct in June. The study examines Hans Glacier in Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the glacier-covered Svalbard archipelago, off the northern Norwegian coast in the Arctic Ocean. While investigating the radionuclide and heavy metal contents of glacial cryoconites, the researchers revealed that the dust retains heavy amounts of airborne radioactive material and heavy metals on glacial surfaces. This radioactive material comes from both natural and anthropogenic, or human-caused, sources, according to the study. However, the researchers determined through isotope testing that this deposition was mainly linked to human activity. Head researcher Edyta Lokas says she believes that this radioactive material mainly derives from nuclear weapons usage and testing. “The radionuclide ratio signatures point to the global fallout [from nuclear weapon testing], as the main source of radioactive contamination on Svalbard. However, some regional contribution, probably from the Soviet tests performed on Novaya Zemlya was also found,” Lokas wrote in an email to GlacierHub. The Arctic region bears an unfortunate history of radioactive contamination, from an atom bomb going missing at the U.S. base in Thule, Greenland, to radiation from Chernobyl getting picked up by lichens in Scandinavia, making reindeer milk dangerous. But how does all this radioactive materials end up in the Arctic? The Arctic, and polar regions in general, often become contaminated through long-range global transport. In this process, airborne radioactive particles travel through the atmosphere before eventually settling down on a ground surface. While these particles can accumulate in very small, non harmful amounts in soils, vegetation, and animals in all areas of the world, geochemical and atmospheric processes carry the majority of radioactive particles to the Poles. Once the particles reach the Poles, “sticky” organic substances excreted by microorganisms living in cryoconites attract and accumulate high levels of radioactivity and other toxic metals. As cryoconites occupy small, but deep holes, on glacier surfaces, they are often left untouched for decades, Edyta explains. Cryoconites also accumulate radioactive substances that are transported with meltwater flowing down the glacier during  summertime. Climate change lends extra meaning to the study, as the researchers note that, “the number of additional contamination sources may rise in future due to global climate changes.” They expect that both air temperature increases and changes to atmospheric circulation patterns and precipitation intensity will all quicken the pace of contamination transport and extraction from the atmosphere. Edtya explained that as Arctic glaciers retreat, “The radioactivity contained in the cryoconites is released from shrinking glaciers and incorporated into the Arctic ecosystem.” She said she hopes that future climate change vulnerability assessments of the Arctic to pollution consider cryoconite radioactivity. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Musical Mountains in the Cosmo Jazz Festival

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Musical Mountains in the Cosmo Jazz Festival

Spread the News:ShareThe Cosmo Jazz Festival in Chamonix, France mixes stunning glacial and mountain views of the Alps with live jazz performances. The concert series, which ran this year from July 23 until July 31st, sets each day’s concert at a new, makeshift stage in open air high up in Chamonix. Chamonix is a small town and resort area at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps. Check out these photos of this year’s festival’s performances, framed by Mont Blanc’s iconic glacial peaks. Christophe Boillon holds all of the image rights for the festival photos shown below. You can find more of his photography on Flickr here. Cosmo Jazz Festival Cosmo Jazz Festival Cosmo Jazz Festival Cosmo Jazz Festival Cosmo Jazz Festival Spread the...

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Calls for “Inclusive Governance” in Climate Change Policy

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Calls for “Inclusive Governance” in Climate Change Policy

Spread the News:ShareClimate change mitigation and adaptation policies need to stop merely “paying lip service” to the knowledge and needs of rural communities, indigenous lands, and high mountain communities, according to two anthropologists who make their case in a recent issue of Science. The perspective, “Environmental governance for all,” written by Eduardo S. Brondizio and Francois-Michel Le Tourneau of Indiana University and Sorbonne Nouvelle University in June, argues that effective governance can only occur with the consultation and incorporation of local and indigenous knowledge into policy decisions. Research suggests that indigenous peoples, who own, occupy or manage up to 65 percent of the Earth’s land surface, are largely excluded from environmental policymaking and forums such as the 2015 Paris climate change conference (COP 21) that led to the negotiated Paris Agreement. The convention aims to limit rising global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. COP 21 asked countries to submit intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to publicly outline what climate actions they intend to take under the Paris Agreement. However, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reported in a 2015 review that none of these notes, or INDCs, submitted by countries as of October 1, 2015 made any mention of indigenous peoples, signaling a key disconnect of indigenous inclusion in national environmental policies.   The paper in Science argues that the inclusion of indigenous people is crucial to effectively tackle challenges caused by climate change and human-caused environmental degradation. Noting that as local and indigenous communities are “crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation, from carbon sequestration to provisioning of water, food, and energy to cities,” the authors write that attempts to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be “compromised” without their inclusion and participation. Co-author Le Torneau told GlacierHub via email, “Glacier and high mountain communities are on the frontline of climate change.”   Glacial retreat and rapidly changing ecosystems especially threaten these communities’ livelihoods, water supply, and food security, as indigenous peoples tend to rely on land and natural resources for survival. A recent study from the United Nations Environmental Programme and affiliated center GRID-Arendal reported that glacial melt “will most likely increase human vulnerability in many areas.” As a result, the perspective’s argument especially holds weight for climate change mitigation and adaptation policy affecting high mountain communities near glaciers, such as mountain villages in Nepal. While the paper acknowledges that many international conventions like the COP21 climate meeting in Paris have recognized the importance of local and indigenous inclusion in climate change policy in their texts, Le Torneau said he believes that the documents do not actually translate into equal representation when it comes to the establishment or implementation of policy.  “There is today a certain kind of inclusion in so far as their existence is considered and a number of compensations are called for. But there is no equality,” he tells GlacierHub via email. “City people can impose new regulations on remote small communities but the reverse is not true as a consequence of the democratic game.” The authors said they hope that these groups will gain more access to future environmental policy decisions and initiatives at all governmental levels. However, they note that delegated responsibilities must pay particular attention to disparities in funding between communities. The paper notes that while “sparsely populated areas are increasingly targeted to meet national and global conservation and climate mitigation goals…local and indigenous populations, many of which are poor, are expected to take on growing responsibilities as environmental stewards.” Le Torneau writes that the paper was inspired by fieldwork observations about Amazonian forest communities’ lack of input...

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