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Photo Friday: Icebergs at Berg Lake

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Tourism | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Icebergs at Berg Lake

Spread the News:ShareLocated in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada, Berg Lake tends to be filled with icebergs throughout the year. Visitors often see ice break off or calve into the lake, which is partially fed by Berg Glacier. Known for its glacier, floating icebergs, and bright bluish-green water, the lake is a popular destination for hikers. Berg Glacier sits atop Mount Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Mount Robson is part of a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains known as the Rainbow Range. Named “Tsitsutl,” meaning “painted mountains” in the local dialect, Rainbow Range is made of lava and rock that comes in hues of red, orange, lavender and yellow, noticeable on sunny days. Mount Robson Provincial Park, including Berg Lake and Glacier, was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1990. For a visceral experience of the park, attend the 7th Annual Mount Robson Marathon to be held on September 9, 2017. The marathon will take runners up the world-renowned Berg Lake Trail. Below, you can find a video of hiker Phil Armitage on the trail.                   Spread the...

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Cracks in the Paris Agreement

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Editorial, Featured Posts, News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Cracks in the Paris Agreement

Spread the News:ShareMajor cracks have appeared in recent months in Petermann Glacier in Greenland and the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. These cracks are advancing and will soon release enormous icebergs into the ocean, one the size of the state of Delaware. They will allow ice from the interior of Greenland and Antarctica to flow into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise. Coastal areas in the U.S. will experience increased flooding, disrupting ports and airports, and interfering with the American economy that Trump claims to support, as well as causing harm to societies and ecosystems around the world.   And today a major crack appeared in the Paris Agreement, with Trump’s announcement of his intention to pull the U.S. out of it. This crack threatens to release, not icebergs, but distrust and despair, and disrupt the mechanisms that had begun to slow down global greenhouse gas emissions. This crack— in policy agreements rather than in masses of ice— can be sealed, by efforts of other countries, and of states and cities in the United States and by actions of the corporations and organizations that sought to keep the U.S. in the agreement.   The laws of physics indicate that ice will continue to flow from Greenland and Antarctica, at least as long as global warming is not abated. But the processes within global society are not as inevitable. With concerted action, the Paris Agreement can still be a vital force to preserve our planet from one of the greatest threats it has ever faced. Spread the...

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Using Film to Reduce Risk on Volcanoes

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Using Film to Reduce Risk on Volcanoes

Spread the News:ShareFor people to cope with environmental hazards, they need to understand threats – a key step that can lead to behavior change. A recent paper by Anna Hicks et al., published in the International Journal for Disaster Risk Reduction, describes the importance of communicating glacier hazards and other risks. The authors made videos and then assessed their effectiveness for risk communication in volcanically-active communities. The films were used to communicate findings from the Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas (STREVA1) project, led by the University of East Anglia in the UK, in order to apply effective volcanic risk assessments. Hicks et al. selected two sites with histories of volcanic activity, Colombia and a Caribbean island, St. Vincent, as case studies for the videos. These sites were attractive for other reasons: St. Vincent has a high use of digital media, and Colombia has large at-risk populations across the entire country. As a result, film could be used to communicate across broad audiences in boith cases. St. Vincent has one prominent volcano called La Soufrière. La Soufrière comprises about a third of the island’s area. It last erupted in 1979, but the eruption that occurred in 1902 was much more devastating, killing around 1,500 people on the island. Colombia, on the other hand, has 57 volcanoes. Many of them are stratovolcanoes (over 4000 meters), and a large number are glacier-capped. Hicks et al. focused on the glaciated Nevado del Ruiz during the film-making process. Hicks et al. took a co-productive approach and made the intended audience the major focus of the films. The series of videos featured firsthand accounts from witnesses of previous eruptions and secondhand accounts shared by community elders with younger generations. The interviews were intended to create an emotional response from the viewers. The eruptions featured in the films occurred at least a generation ago, allowing Hicks et al. to explore how film can impact social memory. The series included reflections on eruptions that occurred in the past, and how to prepare for possible ones in the future. By making the videos for St. Vincent, over a year earlier than the series for Colombia, the authors learned the importance of the filming process and the final product in improving people’s knowledge of risks and behavior change. Each film was designed to increase awareness of eruptions, while also maintaining and strengthening social and cultural memory of the events. The films were screened in each community and then followed by in-person surveys. The films sought to dispel myths about the volcanoes and improve preparedness. The results of the survey indicated improvements in knowledge, as well as success at empowering people to act. For example, one of the participants in St. Vincent noted “the speed at which the flow can get to the Rabacca river and cut us off if we do not adhere to the early evacuation process.” As Hicks et al. describe in the paper, many of the attendees had never actively sought information on eruptions before and engaged for the first time during the film screening and consequent workshops. In the paper, Hicks et al. explain that risk communication “will have more success if it is rooted in the socio-cultural context in which the risk is understood.” Adopting concepts from David Cash, the information should be credible (believable and trusted) and salient (relevant). The authors chose film specifically because it is an effective way to communicate concepts or risks that are difficult to imagine or understand. Dr. Kerry Milch, a research associate at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at Columbia University, explained to GlacierHub how film...

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Learning from a Flood-Alarm System’s Fate

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Learning from a Flood-Alarm System’s Fate

Spread the News:ShareA longer version of this post appeared in the April 2017 issue of EcoAmericas. When a flood from a mountain lake threatened to swamp the town of Carhuaz in the Peruvian Andes early one morning in April 2010, Víctor Rodríguez was the only person who knew. From his hut on a plain below the mountain, he heard the jet-like rumble as a block of ice calved off a glacier and crashed into the lake. The force of the fall produced a wave that swept over the earthen dike around the water body, called Lake 513, and cascaded down the steep slope. Rodríguez watched as the water swirled across the plain, swamping the catchment for the municipal water system, where he worked as caretaker. Picking up speed as it funneled into the Chucchún River, the torrent of water carrying mud and boulders swept away crops, livestock and some buildings. But it stopped just short of the town of about 12,000 people beside the Santa River, at the foot of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. The Destruction of an Early-Warning System With climate change increasing the threat of such hazards, the Swiss government’s development agency, a Peruvian nonprofit, and a Swiss university teamed up to develop a high-tech early-warning system. By the end of 2013, lakeside sensors and cameras were in place above Carhuaz, with relay antennae that could transmit information quickly to a command center in the municipal offices. Once its kinks were worked out, the organizers of the project hoped the system could serve as a model for other towns that lie below glacial lakes. Then disaster struck again, this time in the form of a drought. Not only was rain scarce, but an unseasonable frost damaged crops. Rumors spread among residents of the farming communities around Carhuaz that the monitoring equipment at Lake 513 was preventing clouds from forming. Early one morning last November, several hundred people from the largely indigenous communities, where traditional Andean beliefs still hold sway, trekked up to the lake and tore down the system. Within a week, it rained. The events raise questions about how to ensure that in areas where rural residents distrust technology, systems can be created to reliably warn those in the path of Carhuaz-style deluges, known as glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOFs. It also highlights tensions between growing urban areas and their rural neighbors— tensions that could deepen as dense development encroaches on agricultural land and city dwellers demand a larger share of water from threatened sources. The destruction of the Carhuaz early-warning equipment came as a shock to the system’s developers, but in hindsight, signs of discontent had been building. During workshops in 2012, residents said they felt unprotected against outburst floods like the one in 2010, says Karen Price Ríos of CARE Peru, a nonprofit development organization that has been active in the area for several years. Price worked with local communities on the three-year early warning project, which was funded by the Swiss aid agency COSUDE and supported by researchers from the University of Zurich. The researchers drew up a risk map, showing the areas in varying degrees of danger from a mudslide like that of 2010, and devised evacuation routes, marking them with signs. The centerpiece of the project was the early-warning system on Mount Hualcán. If a block of ice broke from the glacier and crashed into Lake 513, it would trigger sensors that would turn on cameras and send an alert to local officials. They could then check the images from the cameras to verify the flood and sound an alarm. The...

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Let it Snow… and Save a Glacier

Posted by on May 30, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Let it Snow… and Save a Glacier

Spread the News:ShareNews about shrinking glaciers is not uncommon, but have you ever heard of regrowing one artificially? That is exactly what a team of researchers intends to do: use snow machines, also known as Schneekanonen (snow-cannons) in German, to save Morteratsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps. Felix Keller, a glaciologist at the Academia Engiadina in Switzerland, and Johannes Oerlemans, director of the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, will use snow machines to slow down, or even reverse, the retreat of the glacier as announced at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, on April 27th. Morteratsch, located in Pontresina in the canton of Graubünden, is the third largest glacier in the Eastern Alps. It is also one of the most easily accessible glaciers: a 50-minute walk from Morteratsch train station along a hiking trail leads visitors directly to the glacier tongue. This makes it a popular tourist attraction that contributes to the economy of the region. However, the glacier has been shrinking rapidly because of climate change, retreating about 2.5 kilometers over the last 150 years. The plan to save the glacier using snow machines was inspired by the successful use of white fleece coverings to slow down the retreat of the nearby Diavolezzafirn Glacier. This method has been applied over the past 10 years to help the glacier grow by up to 8 meters in length. Locals reached out to Oerlemans and Keller, who have done prior research in the region, to try to save Morteratsch in a similar manner, except the latest plan involves covering sections of the glacier with snow to reduce melting during the summer. “The municipality of Pontresina, in whose territory the glacier is situated, is trying to position itself as a village at the forefront of climate change issues,” Daniel Farinotti, a glaciologist at both Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), shared in an interview with GlacierHub. A layer of snow will protect the ice from incoming radiation, which would warm up the glacier. A secondary and smaller effect would be to protect the ice from overlying air, which could be above freezing. Models used by the researchers suggest that a thin layer of snow covering under one square kilometer at the top of the glacier would be enough to protect the glacier. Oerlemans also estimates that this could help the glacier regain 800 meters of length in two decades. This plan would involve the use of 4,000 snow machines, which produce snow from water and pressurized air. They will be supplied with meltwater from a nearby glacier, which addresses a key concern: “If we want to do it on a larger scale, the main challenge will be the availability and transportation of meltwater onto the glacier,” Oerlemans shared with GlacierHub. Not everyone is convinced that the plan will work. “I am still a little skeptical that the technical problems are solved and would like to see answers to some questions,” Greg Greenwood, executive director of the Mountain Research Initiative, shared with GlacierHub. These questions include exactly where the snow will be deposited, financial and environmental costs, and a comparison with other technical options. Oerlemans and Keller are currently conducting a pilot project costing $100,000 at the foot of Diavolezzafirn glacier, also in Switzerland. 13 feet of snow will be blown over the 1,300-square-foot glacier by the end of the month. If it works, they hope that the Swiss government will fund the Morteratsch project, which will cost several million Swiss...

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Roundup: Glacier Lakes, Narwhals, and Water Stress

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Glacier Lakes, Narwhals, and Water Stress

Spread the News:ShareGlacier Lake Deepening in the Himalayas From Water: “This paper investigates physical processes in the four sub-basins of Ngozumpa glacier’s terminal Spillway Lake for the period 2012–2014 in order to characterize lake deepening and mass transfer processes. Quantifying the growth and deepening of this terminal lake is important given its close vicinity to Sherpa villages down-valley… In areas of rapid deepening, where low mean bottom temperatures prevail, thin debris cover or bare ice is present. This finding is consistent with previously reported localized regions of lake deepening and is useful in predicting future deepening.” You can read more about glacier lake deepening here.   Narwhals To Help Monitor Melting Glaciers From New Scientist: “An iconic whale species will soon be aiding climate change research. Narwhals are spending more time near melting sea ice and researchers hope to exploit this new behavior by tagging the mammals with temperature sensors to help us accurately monitor underwater sea ice melt for the first time.” You can read more about narwhals–marine mammals, once confused with unicorns–and glacier monitoring here.   A Study of Water Stress in Kyrgyzstan From Water: “Water vulnerabilities in Central Asia are affected by a complex combination of climate-sensitive water sources, trans-boundary political tensions, infrastructure deficiencies and a lack of water management organization from community to federal levels. This study aims to clarify the drivers of water stress across the 440 km Naryn River basin, headwater stem to the Syr Darya and the disappearing North Aral Sea… Surveys indicate that current water stress is primarily a function of water management and access issues resulting from the clunky transition from Soviet era large-scale agriculture to post-Soviet small-plot farming. Snow and ice meltwaters play a dominant role in the surface and ground water supplies to downstream communities across the study’s 4220 m elevation gradient, so future increases to water stress due to changes in volume and timing of water supply is likely given frozen waters’ high sensitivities to warming temperatures. The combined influence of social, political and climate-induced pressures on water supplies in the Naryn basin suggest the need for proactive planning and adaptation strategies, and warrant concern for similar melt-sourced Central Asian watersheds.” You can read about this challenging situation here. Spread the...

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