Posts by Souvik Chatterjee

Two Glaciers in India Granted Personhood Status, Court Rules

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Two Glaciers in India Granted Personhood Status, Court Rules

Spread the News:ShareThe Gangtori and Yamunotri glaciers in India were recently granted “living beings” status or personhood by the Uttarakhand state court in order to protect them, particularly from pollution and climate change. Located in the Himalayas, both glaciers are considered sacred by Hindus, the dominant religion in India, and are important pilgrimage sites. The glaciers also provide fresh water to millions of people through glacial runoff that flows into the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, which were declared “living beings” last month. The designation of the two glaciers comes on the heels of the right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) recent election victories in the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Led by Prime Minister Modi, the BJP has been criticized for its nationalist policies in India, such as ignoring the minority Muslim population in India.  While the granting of personhood status follows a pioneering trend set by a New Zealand court, which designated personhood to a former national park and later a river, the designation may also be a move by the BJP to earn political favor despite other controversial policies. The coincidence of the timing of the court’s decision and the recent election victories follow a pattern of political action under Hindu nationalism. Not long ago, for example, the BJP appointed Hindu nationalist Yogi Adityanath the state leader of Uttar Pradesh, where there is a high population of Muslims. Adityanath has a history of controversial statements about Muslims, which include a comment that Muslim men seduce Hindu women to lessen the Hindu population and a public defense of the killing of a Muslim man in 2015 after his family allegedly ate beef. On the other hand, the BJP’s chief rival, the Indian National Congress (INC), champions religious diversity and tolerance. But for the first time since 2002, the BJP won a majority of seats in Uttarkhand, earning 56 to the INC’s 11. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won a landslide 325 seats to the INC’s 54. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s, which caters to minority Muslims, took 19 seats in Uttar Pradesh. Justices Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh of Uttarakhand state court bestowed the legal distinction of “Juristic Persons” on the two glaciers, giving them legal rights. Personhood status allows lawsuits to be brought by features of the natural world, without the need to show harm done to a human. The ruling recognized glacier retreat as one of the reasons for the personhood status. “Gangotri is one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas,” the Court said. “However, it is receding fast. In over 25 years, it has retreated more than 850 meters.” At 7,100 meters above sea level, Gangtori Glacier is the longest glacier in the Central Himalayas at 30 km in length. But it has been shrinking at a rate of retreat of about 13 meters per year since 2000. In addition, Yamunotri Glacier is also receding at an alarming rate. In just a few hundred years, the glacier may be gone completely and with it the freshwater rivers. Millions of people depend on glacial melt for water, with glacial ice the largest reservoir of freshwater on earth. A recent report in The Cryosphere states that the mass of Himalayan glaciers may drop by 70-99 percent by the year 2100.  Michael Gerrard, a professor at Columbia University School of Law who has practiced environmental law for nearly 30 years, told GlacierHub, “There have been various efforts in the U.S., but none have gotten very far at all. The ruling is a manifestation of a completely different legal system, a non-western legal system.” In addition to...

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Roundup: Mélange, Ice Microstructures and Ice Caps

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Mélange, Ice Microstructures and Ice Caps

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Mélange, Microstructures and Ice Caps Breakup of Mélange Increases Calving From the Journal Nature Communications: “At many marine-terminating glaciers, the breakup of mélange, a floating aggregation of sea ice and icebergs, has been accompanied by an increase in iceberg calving and ice mass loss. Previous studies have argued that mélange may suppress calving by exerting a buttressing force directly on the glacier terminus. In this study, I adapt a discrete element model to explicitly simulate mélange as a cohesive granular material. Simulations show that mélange laden with thick landfast sea ice produces enough resistance to shut down calving at the terminus. When sea ice within mélange thins, the buttressing force on the terminus is reduced and calving is more likely to occur.” Read more about the study here.     Ice Microstructures and Fabrics of Guliya Ice Cap From Journal Crystals: “This work is the first in the general natural ice literature to compare microstructures and fabrics of continent-type mountain ice in mid-low latitudes with polar ice in order to find out how they evolved based on similar fabric patterns of their vertically girdles. Microstructures and fabrics along the Guliya ice core on the Tibetan Plateau, China, were measured at a depth interval of approximately 10 m…  The thermal kinemics caused by the temperature can play a vital role in different stress cases to cast the similar or same fabric patterns. Normal grain growth, polygonization/rotation recrystallization, and migration recrystallization play roles of different importance at different depths.” Read more about the study here.   The Projected Demise of Barnes Ice Cap From American Geophysical Union: “As a remnant of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, Barnes Ice Cap owes its existence and present form in part to the climate of the last glacial period. The ice cap has been sustained in the present interglacial climate by its own topography through the mass balance-elevation feedback. A coupled mass balance and ice-flow model, forced by Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 climate model output, projects that the current ice cap will likely disappear in the next 300 years. For greenhouse gas Representative Concentration Pathways of +2.6 to +8.5 Wm−2, the projected ice-cap survival times range from 150 to 530 years. Measured concentrations of cosmogenic radionuclides 10Be, 26Al, and 14C at sites exposed near the ice-cap margin suggest the pending disappearance of Barnes Ice Cap is very unusual in the last million years. The data and models together point to an exceptionally warm 21st century Arctic climate.” Read more about the study here.   Spread the...

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Tribal House in Glacier Bay Park Recognizes Huna Tlingit

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Tribal House in Glacier Bay Park Recognizes Huna Tlingit

Spread the News:ShareA newly constructed tribal house within Glacier Bay National Park in the Southeast Alaskan panhandle begins a fresh chapter in the contentious relationship between the Huna Tlingit, a Native American tribe, and the National Park Service (NPS). For much of the 20th century, the NPS infringed on Huna hunting rights and appropriated the majority of Huna land to create a monument, and later a National Park and Preserve over 5,000 square miles in area.  The recently opened 28,000 square foot tribal house coincides with the NPS’s 100th anniversary and will serve as a gathering center for the Huna, displaying artwork and cedar carvings, while also informing some of Glacier Bay’s 500,000 yearly visitors about the Huna’s rich culture.  The house sits on the Huna’s ancestral homelands in Bartlett Cove, originally known in the endangered Huna language as L’eiwshaa Shakee Aan, which translates to “Town on Top of the Sand Hill.” It will memorialize the lost clan houses which used to dot the coast but were destroyed by the rapidly advancing Grand Pacific Glacier in the 1700s. The glacier cleared the land, including wildlife like salmon found in the streams, and destroyed Huna villages. But beginning in the 1800s, the glacier began to recede, leaving 100 miles of destruction in its wake. By the 1830s, the wildlife returned, along with the Huna, who set up seasonal camps where they fished, hunted and collected gull eggs and berries. The new tribal house will be the first permanent house since the glacier drove the Huna away to their current village, Hoonah, 30 miles south, where over 800 of them dwell. Remnants of tribal dwellings and other evidence of the Huna’s presence can still be found in the park. For example, cairns are memorials or landmarks made of mounds of stones marking the highlands used to retreat from floods associated with environmental change. In addition, archaeologists have discovered old smokehouses, house pits, and culturally modified trees stripped of bark, which may have been used for markers, baskets, pitch or shelter. Around the time the Huna returned to Glacier Bay, Westerners also arrived. Captain George Vancouver, an English Naval Officer, surveyed the area in 1794, and John Muir, often referred to as the “Father of the National Parks,” visited between 1879 and 1899. Muir is sometimes credited with the discovery of Glacier Bay, although he relied on Tlingit guides to get there. The area was proclaimed a national monument in 1925, a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, and finally, a national park in 1980. When the monument decree was passed under President Calvin Coolidge, the Huna Tlingit were not consulted, leading to anger among tribal members, and in addition many tribe members did not speak English. The NPS increasingly infringed on the Huna’s hunting rights, first limiting firearms to protect brown bears in the 1930s, and then ten years later outlawing all hunting and trapping except for seals, which the Park Service later banned in 1976.   In 1992, a Huna hunter in the Park was ordered to appear before a federal magistrate in Juneau for shooting a seal that was going to be used in a potlatch, or ceremonial feast, and his gun was confiscated. Around the same time, the Park Service began considering phasing out commercial fishing which prompted peaceful protests on the shores of Bartlett Cove by the Huna. Speeches were given by elders about Huna history and the importance of subsistence. Following the protests, constructive talks began, and in 1997, the idea for a tribal house was accepted by the Park Service. However, limited funding slowed the tribal...

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Iceberg Scars on Seafloor Offer Clues to the Past

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Iceberg Scars on Seafloor Offer Clues to the Past

Spread the News:ShareMany people know the phrase “tip of the iceberg,” which acknowledges that most of the iceberg sits underwater, but few know what the bottom of an iceberg is capable of. Scientists recently found scars in the North Falkland Basin, north of the Falkland Islands, created by icebergs when they plowed into the seafloor. Known as scours, these u-to-v shaped scars can inform researchers about the Earth’s past in terms of climate, geography and ocean currents. Christopher Brown et al. recently published a paper on the topic in the journal Marine Geology, presenting their latest findings. In the paper, the researchers note that the icebergs responsible for the scours in the North Falkland Basin likely calved from glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula. The size of the icebergs must have been immense in order for them to travel 2,000 kilometers and still leave marks on the seafloor hundreds of meters below. Given the freshness and reworking of the scours in the North Falkland Basin, researchers believe they likely formed during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the time period when glacier and ice sheets dominated the globe and Antarctica was larger than it is today. Christopher Brown et al. later found and analyzed the scours using five high-quality 3-D seismic data sets covering an area of 1550 km². From analyzing the curvature of the scours, researchers can determine what kind of tides and currents were active thousands of years ago. Scours can also inform scientists about southern hemisphere climatology and ocean patterns. In the North Falkland Basin, Christopher Brown et al. found scours at depths ranging from 280 to 460 meters below sea level, while the depth of the basin reaches up to 2,500 meters. The researchers also located scours measuring nearly 10 meters deep, 38 kilometers long, and one kilometer wide. These scours may have meandered due to the rotation of the iceberg’s keel, or underside, when pushing into the seafloor. External forces that may have also caused a direction change can include ocean currents, tidal changes, subglacial calving, subglacial drainage and storms. Analyzing the location, curvature and orientation of scours provides scientists with insight into the Earth’s past. For example, the icebergs in the North Falkland Basin were likely carried by the East Falkland Current, an important northward current along the east side of Argentina that brings fresh, cold water north from Antarctica. This suggests that the current was active in the LGM and sheds light on the ocean-climate interactions in the southern hemisphere’s past. Christopher Brown et al. determined that a collection of icebergs may have even formed an iceberg “graveyard,” suggesting there may have been an ice bridge from Argentina to the Falkland Islands at some point in time. This means that the icebergs would have traveled on the east side of the Falkland Islands in order to get to the basin. In the northern hemisphere, scour marks have been found far away from where they were sourced, in the low-to-mid latitudes along the southern Atlantic United States coast, for example. In the southern hemisphere, few iceberg scours have been found outside of Antarctica, particularly in the mid-latitudes. The recent findings in the North Falkland Basin support the idea that icebergs could travel into warmer waters farther north of 50°S, the approximate location of the Falkland Islands. Rarely have icebergs been recorded north of the Falklands, but a few mega icebergs were spotted between 1979 and 2003. With much of the ocean floor still unexplored, there are likely more scours yet to be discovered that can tell scientists more about the planet’s past. As the scours in the North...

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Photo Friday: Andean Herders Cope with Climate Change

Posted by on Mar 24, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Andean Herders Cope with Climate Change

Spread the News:ShareAllison Caine was recently living in a community of alpaca herders in the Cusco region of Peru conducting extensive fieldwork as part of her PhD program in anthropology at the University of Michigan. These photographs are an element in her research, which focuses on how alpaca herders evaluate environmental changes and adapt their daily and seasonal practices. In many herding communities in this region,  women are often the primary herders. Glaciers form a key element of Caine’s research. Their rapid retreat in recent decades has altered streamflow and affected the wetlands the herders manage, often negatively. Streamside wetlands are a crucial resource for the herds, particularly in the dry season. The dramatic, visible loss of glaciers has a strong cultural impact as well. The following photos have been provided to GlacierHub courtesy of Allison Caine.               Spread the...

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