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The Messy Encounter of Volcanoes and Glaciers

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

The Messy Encounter of Volcanoes and Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareLahars, or mudflows from the eruptions of glacier-covered volcanoes, are a threat that the communities of Skagit Valley in northwest Washington live with. These destructive mudflows can be triggered during volcanic eruptions when hot water and debris rush downslope from the volcano and mix with glacial water. A recent study from the Journal of Applied Volcanology by Corwin et al., identifies ways to improve hazard management and community preparedness in Washington’s Skagit Valley, home to Mount Baker, the second most glaciated volcano in the Cascade Range, and Glacier Peak, the second most explosive. The highly populated communities within Skagit Valley remain especially at risk for dangerous mudflows since both Mount Baker and Glacier Peak are considered active lahar hazard zones. All five of Washington’s Cascade Range volcanoes are active. These volcanoes are especially dangerous because in addition to flowing molten lava and spewed ash that can destroy everything downhill, volcanoes with snow and ice at their peaks can create additional perils. Heat from the eruption can melt the snow or ice that has accumulated, create mud, and pour down narrow mountain valleys. This mixture of water and rock fragments that flows downslope of a volcano into a river valley has dangerous repercussions for communities like those in the Skagit Valley. While lahars can be visually stunning when the volcanic material interacts with glaciers —  see the remarkable images in GlacierHub’s recent article on these events in the Kamchatka Peninsula in Far East Russia — lahars can cause extensive damage to the built environment as boulders destroy structures and mud buries entire communities. Moving lahars appear as a roiling slurry of wet concrete and can grow in volume as they incorporate everything in their path —  rocks, soil, vegetation, and even buildings and bridges. Corwin et al. determined that a crucial disaster risk management strategy for lahar events is “whole community” training programs, which emphasize household preparedness and help disaster responders better perform their duties. Since lahars can cause widespread damage to the surrounding environment, it is important for community members to understand how to address the hazard before it occurs. The focus of the research was on the ascription of responsibility on preparedness and the influence of professional participation in hazard management on household preparedness and risk perception. Disaster response professionals know  the best household preparedness measures, yet they sometimes fail to implement these measures in their own households. The study found that this may be a result of professional disaster responders being out in the field during a disaster, instead of in their homes. Even more surprising, response professionals failed to interpret local volcanic hazard maps more accurately than laypeople. There could be several reasons for this that need to be explored in a subsequent study, but as Kimberley Corwin, a geoscientist and the leading author of the study,  explains, it could be because “people in both groups drew on outside information such as what they remembered or learned about the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.” When asked by GlacierHub about her familiarity with lahars, Corwin described her closest experience with an active volcano in Chile’s March 2015 Villarrica volcano eruption. Corwin was in Pucón, Chile, for a volcanology course with Boise State University. The group of academics arrived two weeks after the main fire fountain event, which triggered a lahar. There was still active ash venting in the area. “While we were there, the alert levels in the town were elevated and a 5-kilometer exclusion zone was set up around the vent,” Corwin explained. “It offered a great opportunity to observe the reactions of locals, tourists, and officials.” Corwin’s further...

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World Bank Study Proposes Solutions to Bolivia’s Water Crisis

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

World Bank Study Proposes Solutions to Bolivia’s Water Crisis

Spread the News:ShareBolivia is currently in the midst of the worst drought in twenty-five years following decades of intense water crises, including an infamous “water war” in 2000 in the city of Cochabamba in which tens of thousands of Bolivians protested the privatization of water. To cope with the current situation, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has declared a national state of emergency, imposed stricter water rationing, and even fired a top water official, but can more be done to alleviate the crisis? In a recent report for the World Bank Group, Sarah Botton et al. cover the current crisis and explain how a blend of “big system” water infrastructure, in which a single operator manages the piped system, and “small system” infrastructure, in which individuals informally control water resources, can help conditions in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, and El Alto, a large adjacent city known for its high elevation and largely indigenous population.  Botton et al. present a case study of water management in La Paz and El Alto to consider the benefit of future water management strategies in the region. The central and oldest neighborhoods of these Bolivian cities have traditionally had better access to water, with poorer communities suffering from noteworthy shortages or decreased access, according to Botton et al. As a result, both cities have gone through cycles of public and private management before changing back to a public management system in 2007.  Dirk Hoffmann, a professor at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in Germany and an expert in glacier change and glacier lake outburst flood risk in the Bolivian Andes, explained in an interview with GlacierHub that the immense population growth in La Paz and El Alto further complicates water management issues in the area. He indicated that the urban area of the metropolis of La Paz and El Alto is growing 40,000 to 50,000 people each year.  “The water supply system in La Paz and El Alto has not kept up with the population growth,” Hoffmann told GlacierHub. To make matters worse, Hoffmann explained that there is a 40 to 50 percent loss of water as it travels from the source due to old water pipes, open canals, infiltrations, and (illegal) access by users. In 1997, while under public management, 95 percent of the La Paz population was connected to the drinking water system and 80 percent to sewers, according to Botton et al. In El Alto, where the population is poorer and more heavily indigenous, only 65 percent of the population was connected to drinking water and 25 percent to sewers. In order to provide more dependable water to the indigenous people, the decision was made by the government of El Alto in July 1997 to move the governance of the water system to a private company. La Paz similarly made the decision to privatize. A contract was signed by both cities with Aguas del Illimani, a subsidiary of the French company Suez. However, problems with privatization arose because the company lacked the resources to equip the poorest households with water. Aguas del Illimani was ultimately replaced in 2007 by Empresa Pública Social de Agua y Saneamiento (EPSAS), a public utility. EPSAS dealt with a major setback in 2008 in which a landslide caused by heavy rain destroyed the pipes in the Pampahasi system, which supplied water to the southern and eastern part of La Paz. The area went without water for three weeks because repairs were delayed and EPSAS could not afford the US$450,000 s to repair the damage. They required a loan from the municipality and the national government. President Morales and water experts maintain that climate change...

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Glacier Researchers to Join Worldwide March for Science

Posted by on Mar 22, 2017 in Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Glacier Researchers to Join Worldwide March for Science

Spread the News:ShareLarge groups plan to assemble on April 22 in Washington, D.C. and cities across the world as part of the March for Science to demonstrate their support of science and the role of scientific evidence in guiding policy. Glacier researchers and other cryosphere specialists are preparing to join their colleagues from other disciplines in this global expression of concern. The March for Science has grown over a short period, the idea first emerging soon after the 2017 Women’s March in January. It quickly gathered momentum with large numbers of adherents on social media, drawing inspiration from the 2014 People’s Climate March. The organizers selected April 22, Earth Day, as the date for the events. By February, 27 scientific associations had joined as partner organizations to co-sponsor the march. To date, 107 organizations are sponsoring the event, with 429 satellite marches planned in 42 countries.   In addition to seeking to assure funding for scientific research, the march has a number of other goals: supporting scientific education, promoting diversity and inclusiveness in science, affirming science as a democratic value, and advancing the role of scientific evidence in policy-making.  Though some have voiced a concern that the march could serve those who seek to attack science, by politicizing science and presenting scientists as an interest group, the march’s supporters have argued for the urgency of taking a public stand in the face of unprecedented threats to scientific research and to the belief in science itself. One of the march’s earliest sponsors was the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific organization, with over 120,000 members. Agustin Fuentes of the University of Notre Dame, the chair-elect of the anthropology section of the AAAS, spoke recently with GlacierHub about the back and forth discussions across the membership when the idea first came up. “The leadership stood up right away and spoke publicly,” he said, adding  that this “galvanized the membership.”   Fuentes further underscored the importance of science at a time when, as he said, “the structure of the planet is changing so fast.” He continued, “We are at a point of almost no return. I never expected to see video footage of glaciers shrinking…We’ve known of this global disruption climatologically, and it’s been ramped up politically. People who engage in science have to speak up now.” He spoke as well of primates, the “canaries in coal mines for the world’s forests,” with over 60% of primate species listed as threatened. Robin Bell of Columbia University, the president-elect of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), linked cryosphere processes with the importance of the march. The AGU, with over 60,000 members, was one of the march’s first sponsors. “The march is a chance for us to talk about how science matters,” she said. “Science is important for society, and it’s non-partisan.”   “We’re still making basic discoveries about how ice sheets work,” Bell continued, referencing her own work in Antarctica. These findings are important to society because of “the linkage to sea level rise” and the threats to port facilities in the current economy, where “goods move all around the world.”  She emphasized that the march was global, with other countries besides the US needing to assure the role of science in policy and decision-making. Alisse Waterston,  the president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), described to GlacierHub her organization’s path to supporting the march. At the AAA’s 2016 annual meeting in mid-November, less than two weeks after Election Day, members voiced their wish to take action. “It was remarkable to see such a strong sense of solidarity,...

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A New View on Border Tensions between India and China

Posted by on Mar 21, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

A New View on Border Tensions between India and China

Spread the News:ShareNumerous disputes exist in remote regions of the world where the terrain makes it difficult to secure and manage borders. One well-known example is the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas. Known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), this line demarcating the frontier between Indian and Chinese-controlled territory is the longest disputed land border in the world. Natural, human and technological issues complicate the management of this disputed border, as explained by Iskander Rehman in a paper published in the most recent issue of the Naval War College Review. The entire Sino-Indian border is 4056 km in length, with disputed areas found in Aksai Chin in the western part of the border and in Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern area. The disputed border in Arunachal Pradesh is sometimes referred to as the McMahon Line, which Britain and Tibet agreed to in 1914, but which has never been acknowledged by China. Both of these areas were taken over by the Chinese in the Sino-Indian war in 1962, and the two countries have remained in an uneasy coexistence since then. インド軍と中.国人民解放軍が国境付近でにらみ合い。緊張状態が続いています pic.twitter.com/0rPhVOnMpz — ボケて(秀逸) (@bokete_hot) March 6, 2017 This tweet from Japan offers a humorous take on the long standing border issue between the two countries, saying “The Indian Army and the China People’s Liberation Army intersect near the border. Tension is continuing.” Several factors have influenced the dynamics of the border dispute since 1962, as highlighted by Rehman. Three relate to military activities: India has a greater military presence along the disputed areas of the LAC, while China possesses better communications infrastructure and a more unified command structure. The fourth arises from the climate and terrain in the disputed regions. Due to the remoteness and large expanse of the Himalayas, multiple land border disputes are located within the mountain range. These can involve control of the region’s features, such as glaciers. For example, India and Pakistan have been involved in a stand-off over the Siachen Glacier in Karakoram in the northwestern part of the Himalayas since 1984. In the case of the Sino-Indian border disputes, the climate and terrain can confer strategic advantages, while creating challenges for both sides. Rehman argues that the high elevations of the Tibetan Plateau create advantages for the Chinese in terms of surveillance and the execution of artillery operations, while allowing troops stationed there to acclimatize to high-altitude warfare. Thick layers of frost and ice can also render regions of Aksai Chin more passable for heavy vehicles in winter, aiding the movement of troops and equipment.  However, other mountain passes can become inaccessible during harsh winters, and steep slopes contribute to regular landslides in Arunachal Pradesh, disrupting traffic. The highly unpredictable climate of mountainous terrain also makes military operations much more difficult, with extreme changes in the weather creating problems for troops and equipment. The effects of these difficulties are all too evident in the dispute between India and Pakistan, with the vast majority of casualties on both sides attributed to exposure, frostbite and avalanches, according to Rehman. Although hostilities ceased after 1962, and signs of Sino-Indian rapprochement emerged in the late 1970s, the issue of ‘gray-zone aggression’ (tactics adopted by revisionist powers that are coercive but do not cross established international red-lines) has created concern in India. Rehman highlights the fact that India is particularly troubled by China’s use of infrastructure development to cement claims over contested territory. Construction is often undertaken during seasons when snow makes areas inaccessible to India’s military, increasing tension along the border. The Indian military is often unable to detect these in a timely manner, allowing the Chinese...

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Roundup: Game of Thrones, Earth Selfies, and Glacier Safety

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

Roundup: Game of Thrones, Earth Selfies, and Glacier Safety

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Greenland, Earth Selfies, and Pakistan Game of Thrones Actor Photographs Climate Change From Travel + Leisure: “Google Maps announced a project with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, ‘Game of Thrones’ actor and U.N. goodwill ambassador, that takes Street View to southern Greenland. Coster-Waldau, who is Danish-born but whose wife is from Greenland and whose family has a home in Greenland’s Igaliku, is focused on increasing awareness of climate change as part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to showing the landscapes of Greenland on Street View, Google also put together a time-lapse showing how snow and ice coverage has changed over recent years.” Read more about their work here. Explore climate change in Greenland with Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Source: Google Maps/Travel + Leisure).   New Earth Selfies Every Day From Science Magazine: “The San Francisco, California–based company Planet, launched 88 shoebox-sized satellites on a single Indian rocket. These satellites joined dozens already in orbit, bringing the constellation of ‘Doves,’ as these tiny imaging satellites are known, to 144. Six months from now, once the Doves have settled into their prescribed orbits, the company says it will have reached its primary goal: being able to image every point on Earth’s landmass at intervals of 24 hours or less, at resolutions as high as 3.7 meters— good enough to single out large trees. Data from Planet is even enabling the monitoring of glaciers.” Read more about this work here.   Glacier Safety Awareness in Pakistan From Pamir Times: “Mountaineers and researchers from Shimshal Valley trekked across northeastern Pakistan this January, to raise awareness about saving glaciers from a warmer environment. Pakistan is home to the world’s largest glaciers outside of the polar region. The expedition was aimed at monitoring and collecting data to analyze the change in the glaciers due to global warming. The activists hope to inspire people at every level around the world, and Pakistan in particular, to stand up and take some substantial steps in addressing the issues of global warming and climate change.” Read more about the expedition here.   Spread the...

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Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Glacier Retreat from Space

Posted by on Mar 17, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, News | 0 comments

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Glacier Retreat from Space

Spread the News:ShareA newly released ASTER image from January 29, 2017 shows the rapid retreat of New Zealand’s glaciers. When the image is compared to a Landsat image from January 12, 1990, differences can be detected between the larger terminal lakes and the ice free of moraine cover for the Mueller, Hooker and Tasman Glaciers. In total, New Zealand contains over 3,000 glaciers, many located on the South Island in the Southern Alps, according to NASA. These glaciers have been in retreat since 1890, with only short periods of recorded advance during that time. ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), built by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is one tool launched in 1999, along with four other Earth-observing instruments, used to monitor the changing surface of the planet. It allows scientists to better understand dynamic conditions, such as glacial advance or retreat, that are otherwise difficult to physically measure, and offers data critical for surface mapping. See NASA’s images over the years of New Zealand’s glacier retreat.               Spread the...

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