Adaptation

Greenhouses bring hope to vulnerable mountain communities in Nepal

Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 in Adaptation, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Greenhouses bring hope to vulnerable mountain communities in Nepal

Spread the News:ShareGrowing up in a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal, I vividly remember how food insecurity impacted our everyday lives. Floods, droughts, and landslides would immediately determine what we ate. We ate high carb with little nutritional value when things got really bad. I dreaded those days. I looked forward to the rare days when we had lots of vegetables. As a result, many in my community grew up malnourished. But things started changing once my mother started growing vegetables using plastic covering in small spaces. A small change, which shifted the trajectory of my four siblings and my life. That was my first exposure to improvised greenhouses. It has stayed with me all these years and now the need for it is only growing. Due to climate change, climate-induced disasters are a daily reality in Nepal and food insecurity is rampant. Nepal is climate disaster vulnerable and projected to import more food. This past growing season my nonprofit organization, Mountain Resiliency Project, with funding from American Jewish World Services, has been working on building greenhouses with our community partner, Himalayan Community Committee, in Langtang valley, Nepal. In the past, I have led greenhouse projects in Tibet, Mustang and Baglung. These are high altitude communities that were directly being impacted by climate change. The greenhouses provided protection from extreme and erratic precipitation. And they support growing a diverse range of vegetables that would not survive outside in high altitude climate. High peaks surround Langtang valley, villages inches away from glaciers, with the Tibetan Plateau bordering north and east. Langtangpas are people of Tibetan descent. The nearest road is three days of strenuous hike away. The April 2015 earthquake broke off a hanging glacier above Langtang village and caused an air-snow blast that hit and broke free rock and ice that came down 1000m and buried the village. Some scholars believe climate change has increased hanging glaciers and rock falls in the region. The Langtang survivors of 160 households were relocated to a temporary shelter in Kathmandu. My colleague, Chhime Renzin Tamang, 21, a native Langtangpa, shared his grievance of losing 12 members in his immediate family. We brainstormed ideas of how to rebuild lives and I proposed building greenhouses. There had been a few greenhouses in the area before but the avalanches had wiped them away. After all the pain and loss, it was difficult convincing families to think about farming. Many had just sowed their seeds before the catastrophic earthquake. They were in the fields preparing for a growing season when tragedy hit.  “After the earthquake, our small field was covered by heavy landslides and it had hardened, since we spent a year without cultivating the fields. We have to carry in our food from a town three days walk away; it is very expensive and strenuous. How can we survive like this?” questioned Tharchen Tamang, 62, of Mundu, Langtang. When I asked Chhime’s mother about rebuilding, she responded: “Everything my family had worked towards has been wiped out. I lost my eldest son, his whole family, my eldest daughter, and her whole family, too. Twelve members. How can we restart our lives again at this old age?” – Tharchen Tamang, 62, of Mundu, Langtang. We provided psychosocial counseling with strong Tibetan Buddhist influences to mentally prepare the families for rebuilding. Together with the villagers and local leadership, Tempa Lama, president of the local Langtang Reconstruction Management Committee, our greenhouse project was welcomed. “It has been a year and the government still hasn’t delivered its promise on rebuilding. The greenhouses are being built before the houses. We have...

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Photo Friday: Volcanic Readiness in Colombia

Posted by on Aug 26, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Volcanic Readiness in Colombia

Spread the News:ShareThe Volcanic and Seismological Observatory of Manizales has recently conducted several workshops on volcanic risk with communities in the vicinity of Nevado del Ruiz, a glacier-covered volcano in Colombia that showed signs of renewed activity earlier this year. The workshops prepare communities to react to volcanic hazards like ash and lahars, the latter of which can occur when lava flow mixes with the icy temperatures of glaciers. Locals participate in focus groups and model experiments to better understand the volcanic risks in their community. “Communication Strategy of Volcanic Risks,” is enacted in conjunction with the Colombian Geological Service, the National Unity of Disaster Risk Management, and other regional and municipal agencies. Check out some photos of the workshop, courtesy of the Observatory, below. A focus group in Los Alpes. A demonstration activity with the community of Playa Larga. A demonstration activity in Los Alpes. Los Nevados National Natural Park, with the Nevado del Ruiz in the far distance. Source: Juan Camilo Giraldo Falla. A demonstration activity with the community of Playa Larga. Click here to “like” the Observatory’s Facebook page and to see more photos of the project.   Spread the...

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Officials, Experts, Local People Visit a High-risk Glacier Lake

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Adaptation, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Officials, Experts, Local People Visit a High-risk Glacier Lake

Spread the News:ShareOver 30 people, including government officials, researchers, students and journalists, recently visited Palcacocha, a lake at the foot of a large glacier high in the Peruvian Andes. This one-day trip was a tour that came the day after an international glacier conference held nearby. The group discussed natural hazards and water resources associated with the lake. The conversation revealed that a number of different agencies and organizations have claims to the lake, and that their concerns, though overlapping, differ in important ways, raising challenges for those who wish to manage it. These issues of governance are characteristic of the management of glacier lakes in other countries as well, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Switzerland and Tajikistan. Lake Palcacocha, located about 20 kilometers northeast of the city of Huaraz at an elevation of 4550 meters above sea level, is well-known in Peru and beyond as the source of a major glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). This event occurred in 1941, when a chunk of ice broke off the glacier above the lake, sending waves that destroyed the moraine that dammed the lake. The floodwaters, mixed with rock, mud and debris, rushed down the canyon and inundated Huaraz, located well below the lake at an elevation of 3050 meters. The death toll was high, exceeding 5000 by many accounts, and large areas of the city were destroyed. The residents of the city remain keenly aware of the risks presented by GLOFs, known as aluviones in Spanish. The visitors traveled up to the lake in buses and vans, hiking on foot to cover the final, and roughest, kilometer of the road. They assembled at the wall at the base of the lake that had been built in the 1940s to reinforce the moraine dam. The first person to speak was César Portocarrero, an engineer from the Peruvian National Institute for Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems, the group which organized the international conference. This institute, known by its Spanish acronym INAIGEM, is a branch of Peru’s Ministry of the Environment. It is charged with managing glacier issues in the country, including this lake. Portocarrero discussed the wall, indicating that it has been repaired several times after damage from earthquakes. He showed a sluice gate through which a number of plastic pipes were threaded. These serve to siphon water from the lake and pass it into the outlet river below, relying on gravity rather than pumps to move the water. By lowering the level of the lake, the agency also lowers the risk that waves in the lake (which could be produced by icefalls, avalanches, or earthquakes) would overtop the wall and create another GLOF. Portocarrero indicated as well that an intake valve further downstream directs the water from the river to the city of Huaraz. This lake supplies the city with nearly half its water. The key goal, he emphasized, was to keep the lake level low. He mentioned that glacier melt was particularly heavy in January, due to high temperatures associated with an El Niño event. The lake was so high that the siphon pipes had to be removed, allowing the maximum possible flow through the sluice gate. It took several months after the excess water was drained to thread the pipes through the gate and reinstall them. The second person to speak was Eloy Alzamora Morales, the mayor of the district of Independencia, the administrative unit in which the lake is located. He emphasized the importance of a multisectoral approach that would link disaster risk reduction with sustainable water use, providing potable water to Huaraz and to rural areas above 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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Peru Conference Calls for More Work on Climate Change, Disaster Risk

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Adaptation, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Peru Conference Calls for More Work on Climate Change, Disaster Risk

Spread the News:ShareA major international forum this month in Peru has resulted in calls for strengthening research capabilities and for programs in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. It also had demonstrated the need for greater public participation and the development of new financial mechanisms to support these activities. It showed the importance of flexible governance systems that can draw on emerging research and on growing citizen engagement with environmental issues. The scientific forum’s focus on climate change in the mountains took on particular meaning, as it was held in Huaraz, a  a small Peruvian city located at the foot of the Cordillera Blanca, a major glacier-covered range. The forum, held Aug. 10-12, specifically centered on climate change impacts in mountains, with particular emphasis on glacier retreat, water sustainability and biodiversity. A new Peruvian organization, the National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems, known by its Spanish acronym INAIGEM, organized the forum, with support from a number of other organizations. The forum’s more than 1,400 participants came largely from Peru, but also included a substantial number of scientists, policy experts and agency staff from 18 other countries.  They met in Huaraz, attending plenary lectures in the morning and breaking into smaller groups in the afternoon for topical sessions and discussion groups, which considered specific recommendations for action. These recommendations led to two final documents. The forum produced a set of eight conclusions and a final declaration, both presented to the participants, a number of public officials and the media by Benjamin Morales, the president of INAIGEM. Researchers from the natural and social sciences reported  on water availability and natural hazards in the Cordillera Blanca and other mountain ranges. Jeff Kargel of the University of Arizona reported on the connections between earthquakes and glacier lake outburst floods in the Himalayas and the Andes. Bryan Mark of the Ohio State University discussed research methodologies to measure “peak water”—the point at which the contribution of glacier meltwater causes a river’s flow to reach its highest levels, after which the glaciers, smaller in size, contribute less water to the streams.       Several talks traced links between ecosystems and water resources. They showed the importance of wetlands in promoting the recharge of groundwater and in maintaining water quality. The latter role is particularly important, because as glaciers retreat, new areas of rock become exposed to the atmosphere. As these rocks weather, minerals leach into streams. Since these wetlands are important grazing areas for peasant communities, they raise challenging issues of coordination between communities and agencies charged with environmental management.    Many speakers focused specifically on this management, stressing the importance of the coordination of scientists and other experts, policy-makers, and wider society. Carlos Fernandez, of UNESCO, stressed the importance of water governance systems that integrated social, economic and environmental sectors, rather than relying on market-driven approaches. Others examined financial mechanisms, such as the payment for ecosystem services and the expansion of user fees for water and other resources. GlacierHub’s editor Ben Orlove spoke of the cultural importance of glaciers, and of the role of glaciers as symbols of social identity. The forum was sponsored by over two dozen institutions, including Peruvian agencies (Ministry of the Environment, the National Service for Protected Natural Areas, the National Civil Defense Institute, and the National Water Authority), NGOs  (CARE, The Mountain Institute, CONDESAN) and the international aid programs from Switzerland, US and Canada, as well as several mining firms in Peru. The critical role of mountain societies was signaled by a speech from Juan German Espíritu, the president of the peasant community of...

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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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