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New Report Documents Pakistan’s Water Insecurity

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

New Report Documents Pakistan’s Water Insecurity

Spread the News:ShareWater security is a pervasive issue in Pakistan, a largely arid country. The majority of the country receives less than 300mm of rain per year, while a small region in the north receives upwards of 1000 mm per year. The Indus River provides much of the water to the area, but its flow is irregular due to the variable precipitation. Moreover, the river originates partly in Pakistan and partly in India, creating additional political challenges that stem from the decades-long history of tension between the two countries. Last month, the United Nations Development Programme released a Development Advocate Pakistan report that describes the uncertain future of water in Pakistan, which is impacted by changing climate and melting glaciers, as well as political issues with neighboring India. The report’s editors suggest several ways to increase water stability in Pakistan. They advise increasing public awareness because the lack of trust stems in part from incomplete access to data and information. They also recommend high efficiency irrigation systems and updating academic curriculum in the country to include sustainable development. As the report describes, the region of Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan provides most of the water in the glaciated parts of the country. Altitudes exceed 5000 meters with annual snowfall of approximately 5000 millimeters in the highest regions. This zone is the largest area of perennial glaciers outside the polar regions; nearly one third of the Gilgit-Baltistan area is glaciated. The meltwater of these glaciers contribute a massive volume of freshwater, which forms a significant component of the flow into the Indus River. The variability of river flows as a result of monsoon seasons has led to water crises and conflicts between provinces, as well as neighboring countries. The Indus Water Treaty has allowed for peaceful relations between Pakistan and its neighbor India for the past 40 years. As Justin Rowlatt describes in his BBC report from September 2016, the Indus Water Treaty has survived two wars and numerous military impasses between the two countries. However, the increased water stress in the Indus River basin since the early 1990s has strained the treaty.  Coverage of the UNDP report in Indian and Pakistani newspapers has unsurprisingly varied. A recent article in the Times of India covering the report emphasized Pakistan’s negligence and delays in presenting cases to the Indus Water Treaty. An article in the Hindustan Times reports that, “Pakistan has cleverly employed the IWT to have its cake and eat it too” by receiving the larger amount of water the treaty allots for downstream States, while also using the treaty to sustain conflict with India. The coverage of the issue by Pakistani newspapers is sparser. In one editorial published in Pakistan Today, the author calls the UNDP report a “wake-up call” and urges cooperation between Pakistan and India to resolve the dispute. The treaty itself fails to address two important issues. The first is that it does not provide for a division of water during shortages in the dry years between India and Pakistan. The second is that it does not discuss the cumulative impact of reservoirs on the flows of the Chenab River, a major tributary of the Indus, into Pakistan. On a fundamental level, the government of Pakistan does not think the Indus Water Treaty is effective because its people are not satisfied with the amount of water received, but the government of India does not wish to amend the treaty or address water conflict between the countries in other contexts. The treaty allows India to create reservoirs on nearby rivers to store water for hydropower and flood shortages. This provision has created conflicts between...

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Roundup: Snow Bacteria, Sting, and Glacier Awareness

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Snow Bacteria, Sting, and Glacier Awareness

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Bacteria, Sting, and Glacier Awareness   Snow Bacteria in the Tibetan Plateau From INFONA: “Snow bacterial abundance and diversity at the Guoqu Glacier and the East Rongbuk Glacier located in the central and southern Tibetan Plateau were investigated using a 16S rRNA gene clone library and flow cytometry approach. Bacterial abundance was observed to show seasonal variation, with different patterns, at the two glaciers. High bacterial abundance occurs during the monsoon season at the East Rongbuk Glacier and during the non-monsoon season at the Guoqu Glacier. Seasonal variation in abundance is caused by the snow bacterial growth at the East Rongbuk Glacier, but by bacterial input from the dust at the Guoqu Glacier. Under the influence of various atmospheric circulations and temperature, bacterial diversity varies seasonally at different degrees.” Read more about it here.     New Animated Music Video – Sting’s “One Fine Day” From AboutVideo: “Some celebrities do not grow old, not only outwardly but also in the creative plan. In November 2016, the British singer Sting has pleased his fans with a new studio album ’57th & 9th,’ his 12th. On sounding, the album refers to the days Sting was part of the band The Police. The success of the new album has fixed the singer in the top twenty of the UK Albums Charts… In the song ‘One Fine Day,’ Sting sings about protecting the environment. He calls for common sense with regard to nature and its gifts. The musician appears in the video as a silhouette on crumpled paper. The beautiful images on paper give a sense of danger. Sting shows how the glaciers are melting and the politicians are endlessly arguing with each other, leading to the destruction of the planet.” Watch the video here.     Raising Awareness About Glacier Retreat From Pamir Times: “A group of mountaineers and a researcher from Shimshal Valley – Hunza, reached Askoli, a remote mountain village in Skardu, after walking across the Braldu Pass. They are on a a mission to raise awareness about saving glaciers from depleting… The expedition members surveyed Mulungdi glacier and Khurdupin glacier before embarking on their journey to Askoli on January 6… Pakistan is home to world’s largest ice glaciers out of the polar region. Spread over an area of 16933 square kilometers, there are over 5000 glaciers in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral regions of Pakistan, including the famous Siachin Glacier, Biafo Glacier, Khoordhopin Glacier, Batura Glacier, Braldu Glacier, Snow lake and many more. These glaciers are the major source of water feeding the major rivers in Pakistan.” Learn more here.   Spread the...

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When Lava Hits Ice in Russia’s Far East

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

When Lava Hits Ice in Russia’s Far East

Spread the News:ShareThe Kamchatka Peninsula in Far East Russia is an isolated region known for its glacier-volcano interactions that can lead to powerful natural disasters— and also, visually stunning images when lava impacts ice. One of these volcanoes, Sheveluch, has been erupting in recent weeks, creating local hazards. The volcano’s ash cloud, for one, threatens to disrupt air traffic in the region. In total, Kamchatka is home to 160 volcanoes, 29 of which are currently active. These volcanoes— six of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites— are tall and far enough north to harbor glaciers. As such, they are associated with lahars, devastating mudslides down the slopes of a volcano triggered by an eruption and melting glaciers. These mudslides move quickly, destroying most of the structures in their path. Explosive-effusive #eruption of 2016 (April to October)#volcano #Klyuchevskoy 08/21/2016Photo: Vladimir Voychuk pic.twitter.com/5wOhpyVg1s — Войчук Владимир (@voy4uk) January 26, 2017 Avachinsky is one active volcano in the region that is covered in glaciers, placing the surrounding region at a greater risk for lahars. Avachinsky is classified as a stratovolcano, which is a volcano that has been built up by alternate layers of lava and ash. It is the volcano closest to the state capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.  “The Avachinsky volcano is glacierized, and the melting of ice poses a serious lahar threat the next time the volcano is active,” Ben Edwards, a volcanologist and professor at Dickinson College, warns. Edwards explained to GlacierHub that there are many deposits mapped out that are indicative of past lahars. Previous lahars in the Kamchatka Peninsula have been devastating with high human death tolls. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia, for example, erupted in 1985, producing a lahar that killed 23,000 people. “They are incredible forces of nature and also brutally destructive and deadly,” said Janine Krippner, a PhD candidate in volcanology and remote sensing at the University of Pittsburgh, in an interview with GlacierHub. The Klyuchevskaya Sopka stratovolcano is the highest mountain on the peninsula and the highest active volcano in Eurasia. In November 2016 and more recently in January, the volcano spewed ash six kilometers above sea level. Such an ash cloud can disrupt international travel. Klyuchevskaya has produced notable lahars in the past including one particularly damaging one in 1993, according to Edwards. The position of a glacier on a volcano can influence the risk of a lahar.  However, there is still much research needed on past lahars at Klyuchevskaya to better understand risk, notes Edwards. “Many volcanoes have glaciers up high, but those close to Klyuchevskaya are on the western lower flank,” explained Edwards. “There have probably been some interactions and definitely lahars generated from historic flows. But these eruptions have not been well documented.” Higher regions, which tend to be cooler and moister, are more likely to form glaciers. Sheveluch Peak is a very active volcano, and the largest on the peninsula at 1,300 cubic kilometers in volume. Many glacier-volcano interactions have occurred at the location, releasing great quantities of steam and creating fantastic imagery for photographers. Similar volcano-snow interactions also take place elsewhere on the peninsula, especially during the winter, according to Edwards. “We saw spectacular examples during the 2012-13 Tolbachik eruption,” he said. The World Heritage website, which features several of the Kamchatka Peninsula volcanoes, makes special note of the “dynamic landscape of great beauty” created by the interplay of active volcanoes and glacier forms. In addition, the peninsula has a wide diversity of species including brown bears, sea otters and the world’s largest variety of salmon fish. It is also known for a wide variety of birds from falcons to eagles that are attracted to the...

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Penitentes found on Pluto!

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Penitentes found on Pluto!

Spread the News:Share“Don’t tell Mars that my new favorite planet became Pluto!” said John Moores, assistant professor in the department of earth and space science and engineering at York University, whose findings appeared in the journal Nature in early January. But what caused Moores’ sudden change of heart?                 Interview of John Moores by York University With help from NASA and Johns Hopkins University, Moores and a team of scientists discovered evidence of penitentes on Pluto. As Moores et al. explain in their article, “Penitentes are snow and ice features formed by erosion that, on Earth, are characterized by bowl-shaped depressions several tens of centimetres across, whose edges grade into spires up to several metres tall.” Though these penitentes on Pluto are composed of frozen methane and nitrogen, not frozen water, the finding still means that snow and ice features previously only seen on Earth have been spotted elsewhere within our solar system. This suggests that these features may also exist on other similar planets. “No matter whether we are on Earth or Pluto, the same physics applies. We can extend these results to other environments as well,” writes Moores on his blog. Surprised by nature, they discovered snakeskin-like parallel ridges in the Tartarus Dorsa area on Pluto. These ridges resembled penitentes seen on Earth. There have been other examples of similar features on other planets, but these were often caused by processes different from the ones on Earth. Therefore, Moores et al. at first did not believe the features could actually be penitentes. “Pluto was nothing like what we expected,” Moores notes on his blog. In order to determine that the features were true penitentes, Moores et al. applied a terrestrial model called the Claudin Model to Pluto. The model was originally developed to describe a mechanism to control the spacing of penitentes on Earth. When Moores et al. applied the model to Pluto, something strange happened: “The model, which was modified appropriately for Pluto, actually predicted penitentes consistent with what we saw on Pluto when using parameters consistent with Pluto’s extremely thin, yet extremely stable atmosphere,” Moores said.  “The theory fits the available facts quite well.” Keeping with these observations, the model also predicted that penitentes would not form at all in the more volatile nitrogen ices elsewhere on the dwarf planet, according to Moores. First reported in the Chilean Andes by Darwin in the 1830s, penitentes form in areas of strong sunlight. In certain conditions, initial random irregularities in a snow surface can be deepened as curved depressions focus sunlight, accelerating sublimation (the transition of water molecules directly from a solid state to a gas state). As the depressions deepen, the higher points remain, shading the parts behind them, and thus slowing down sublimation. The result is a collection of spiky forms, all oriented toward the sun. Vapor processes within the depressions also contribute to the process of formation of penitentes. How can such large penitentes form on Pluto, when Pluto’s environment is so different from the Earth? “It’s because these penitentes do not form in water ice but in methane ice, which evaporates more easily,” Moores explained to GlacierHub. “Furthermore, the atmosphere into which the sublimating methane vapor mixes is much less dense (about 15,000 times less dense than on Earth), allowing the vapor-rich layer to be thicker.” Moores is excited about his findings. “Those 1,750 words are the most challenging I’ve ever written in my professional life,” he said, referring to his study published in Nature. “It has been an honor to be able to contribute to the science of Pluto, and I will...

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Photo Friday: Forest Fires Rage on Glacier-Covered Peaks in Chile

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, News | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Forest Fires Rage on Glacier-Covered Peaks in Chile

Spread the News:ShareChile is experiencing the worst forest fires in the country’s history after years of drought.  The fires are currently spanning roughly 104,800 hectares or 400 square miles, burning mountains that also harbor glaciers. For example, Mount Llaima, located in Conguillio National Park in the Andes, is covered in glaciers and caught up in the fires. Mitigation efforts have been underway with water-bombing aircraft being supplied by the United States. While ash and soot have been deposited on the glaciers, winds have directed debris away from areas where glaciers are predominant. See images from Chile’s catastrophic fires. 4,000+ have lost their homes in #Chile's worst forest fire. #LatAm Ambassadors are raising funds to rebuild them https://t.co/xuOx2bwLDt pic.twitter.com/pDftplHjAc — One Young World (@OneYoungWorld) February 6, 2017                     Chilean forest fire experts show #EUCivPro specialists helicopter response of the #wildfires in Maule region, #Chile https://t.co/8dAz0fFxBd pic.twitter.com/EdLNYOYNpy — EU Humanitarian Aid (@eu_echo) February 3, 2017 Spread the...

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Upcoming Conference Examines Trans-Asian Indigeneity

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in All Posts, Classroom Hub, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Upcoming Conference Examines Trans-Asian Indigeneity

Spread the News:ShareMarking the ten-year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), this year’s Asian Studies Summer Institute at the Pennsylvania State University will focus on the theme of “Trans-Asian Indigeneity.” The Institute, June 18-24, 2017, will be directed by Neal Keating, Pasang Yangjee Sherpa and Charlotte Eubanks. For the Institute, we invite applications from the humanities, arts and sciences —anthropology, environmental studies, history, political ecology, geography, art and literature— that examine “Indigeneity” as a protean concept and lived reality in Asia, Asian America, and Asian diasporic communities across the globe. Applicants must have completed their PhDs between August 2012 and 2017, or be advanced graduate students who are completing their dissertations. Institute participants spend a week reading and thinking about the annual theme, as well as significant time workshopping their work in progress. Particularly strong work may be considered for publication in the “Indigeneity” special issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias. We are especially interested in attending to the concept’s travels between Asian and western settler societies, or those following the movement’s historical concurrence with the rise of neoliberal political economy and the onset of massive anthropogenic environmental change. We explore the possibilities of strengthening collective indigenous identities that are not antithetical to state sovereignty and citizenry, but nonetheless challenge the status quo of nation-states and finance capital to make political space for “other” peoples with collective human rights that are now recognized in international law. We are also interested in the current historical, political and ecological moment, and the growing realization of planetary limits to unchecked economic growth. New forms of human organization are becoming imaginable, and Indigeneity may be among the most sustainable of these. We encourage applications that connect discourses of ‘Asian’ indigeneities with the larger planetary flows of capital and people. Participants whose work draws on any region in Asia are welcome. For the readers of GlacierHub, we note that the indigenous peoples of the high mountain regions of Asia represent a variety of forms of engagement with indigeneity. Lying along the frontiers of the former Russian, British and Chinese empires, they negotiated with rulers in distant capitals who applied different systems of classification to them, and who often ran borders through the lands of specific peoples. At this time, some indigenous peoples began diasporas that have continued to the present. Their encounters with independent nations after the end of these empires have also been complex and marked by a growing number of new diasporas. We note as well that the lower mountain ranges of southeast Asia and the easternmost Himalayas have been characterized as a large zone of peoples who resist state rule altogether, as James C. Scott argued in his 2009 The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. This Institute provides a venue to reflect on how far the indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change in Asia have come in 2017, as we also mark a decade since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). How are indigenous mountain peoples like the Sherpas dealing with threats from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs)? How are Bhote Khampas adapting to the changes in the availability of forest herbs? Penn State will provide a graduated travel stipend ($400 from the East Coast, $600 from the Midwest, $800 from the West Coast; $1000 from Europe; $1350 from Asia). We will also cover the costs of housing and most meals for the week of the Institute. To apply, please send the...

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