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Listening to Glaciers Artfully

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Listening to Glaciers Artfully

Spread the News:ShareJonathan Gilmurray, the author of “Ecological Sound Art,” covers artists who have created works based on the sounds made by melting glaciers. Gilmurray argues that ecological sound art can be effective at motivating people to combat climate change. He also believes that it should be more fully appreciated on its own as a new art form.   Also known as environmentalist sound art, ecological sound art incorporates naturally-occurring sound, with or without modification, and other elements to depict or evoke the environment. It is a form of artwork that draws on a key principle of environmental ethics, the connectedness between humans and the natural environment. Gilmurray believes ecological sound art can be more effective than other forms of ecological art because of sound’s unique ability to reveal relationships that exists between things in the world. The act of listening implies an attentiveness to the natural world, a greater degree of relatedness than might be found in the works of a visual artist who seeks to capture or depict the natural world as an object. Gilmurray explains Ecological Sound Art here:  Ecological sound artists convey ecological messages about the subjects they record by evoking emotions within their listeners through various means. Some, like Chris Watson, use recordings from their fieldwork. His piece Vatnajökull from 2003 is a collage of recordings tracing the journey of 10,000-year-old ice from the Icelandic glacier Vatnajökull. The recordings follow the waters of the glacier as they form from melting ice and flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Listen to a snippet of his work here. In addition to the sound of ice on the move, people who listen to this piece also hear birds calling each other overhead, the creaking of the ship Watson voyaged on, and waves on the Atlantic Ocean. The UK-based audiovisual organization Touch provides the following description of Watson’s piece: “The most eerie aspect of it is the strange ‘singing’ events which occur throughout, especially by the end of the piece when we’re tossing about on the ocean and an unidentifiable spectral singing hovers over the surface of the sea, causing you to believe in sirens.”  Another artist, Jana Winderen, seeks to “reveal the complexity and strangeness of the unseen world beneath.” Some of her art was recorded inside of glacier crevasses in Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. In a statement on her website, she explains, “I like the immateriality of a sound work and the openness it can have for both associative and direct experience and sensory perception.” You can listen to her 2010 piece Energy Field, which incorporates sounds from northern winds, ravens and running dogs.Evaporation by Jana Winderen(Evaporation (2009) by Jana Winderen) Other artists combine their field recordings with digital enhancements for a different effect, which many find to be more musical. Daniel Blinkhorn incorporated crackling sounds from the fjords of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean with electronic static sounds. On his website, he provides samples of the original recording and digitally re-mastered version so that listeners can compare for themselves. To achieve their desired effects, ecological sound artists employ highly sensitive hydrophones (underwater microphones) and vibration sensors. To some listeners, the end result is so pleasing to the ear that they question why more art shows and galleries do not include an auditory component. Gilmurray is working toward addressing that gap. He hopes that ecological sound art will become as recognized as other forms of environmentalist art. Over the years, other ecological sound artists have explored a variety of techniques to evoke a human response to climate change. By creating live recordings, Katie Paterson allowed her audience to dial a...

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Flooding Glacial Lakes in Chile

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Flooding Glacial Lakes in Chile

Spread the News:ShareIt is a peaceful experience to walk near the glacial lake near Colonia Glacier, one of several prominent glacier lakes in Patagonia, Chile. The breeze on the lake helps you relax as you look out on the distant glaciers. In such a tranquil setting, it is hard to imagine that a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOFs) could pose a threat to the area. However, GLOFs have become a significant but poorly understood hazard of a warming global climate. The truth is, melting Colonia Glacier, located in the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Chile, has caused dozens of GLOFs over the years. The lake near Colonia Glacier, Cachet II, has been drained frequently after unexpected floodings. The people living nearby are under constant threat of a sudden flood, which could completely destroy homes and livelihoods. Actually now, in the Chilean and Argentinean Andes, recent research by project member Pablo Iribarren Anacona has identified at least 31 glacial lakes have failed since the eighteenth century, producing over 100 GLOF events. “These lakes can be dangerous, and we need to take action,” Alton Byers, a geologist at the University of Colorado, told GlacierHub. A group of scientists concerned about GLOF risk have initiated a project, “Glacier Hazards in Chile,” which aims to answer key questions concerning past, present and future glacial hazards in Chile. One of the members is Ryan Wilson, a glaciologist at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. “The project will assess the changing magnitude, frequency, and distribution of different glacial hazards in Chile under current and future global climate change,” Wilson explained to GlacierHub. At the moment, Wilson and the other researchers are focusing on understanding the processes that govern the development of GLOFs in Chile. The fieldwork of Wilson and his team was recently featured in Science. The them held a workshop at Aberystwyth University in July 2016, during which they discussed progress on their Chilean fieldwork, glacial lake mapping, glacial hazard assessment, outburst flood modeling and climate modeling. To assess GLOFs and GLOF risk, the team compiled a glacial lake inventory for the central and Patagonian Andes (1986 – 2016). Wilson said they used remote-sensing and fieldwork to find past GLOF sites around the major icefields, satellite glaciers and snow-and ice-capped volcanoes of Chile. “We have managed to use this lake inventory to inform field campaigns in February to two interesting glacial lake sites in Chile,” Wilson said. “We conducted aerial drone surveys and collected lake bathymetry data.” The team will next analyze flood hydrographs (a graph showing the rate of flow versus time past a specific point in a river) of selected former GLOFs and use these to establish the patterns of downstream impacts. They are proud of their work so far, which they hope to publish soon. Using the inventory across Chile, the team and local community  are able to assess the potential damage GLOFs can cause. Wilson et al. plan to “conduct numerical simulations of downstream impacts for selected potential GLOF sites using physically-based numerical flood models.” In collaboration with Chilean partners, this research will be used to develop early warning systems and raise awareness about quantified GLOF risks. Glacial hazards have threatened various commercial and governmental stakeholders across Chile, making GLOFs a pressing priority. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide a framework that can be applied to other lower income countries, since GLOFs pose threats in multiple countries. “We will make recommendations for GLOF hazard assessment protocols and mitigation strategies in lower income countries globally,” Wilson told GlacierHub. Spread the...

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Roundup: Kayaks, Snow Machines and Drones

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Kayaks, Snow Machines and Drones

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Kayaks, Regrowing Glaciers, and the Bowdoin   Research Using Remote-Controlled Kayaks From Alaska Public Media: “LeConte Glacier near Petersburg… [is] the southern-most tide water glacier in the northern hemisphere and scientists have been studying it to give them a better idea of glacial retreat and sea level rise around the world… to get close to the glacier, which is constantly calving, a team of scientists is relying on unmanned, remote controlled kayaks… these kayaks have been completely tweaked by Marion and an ocean robotics team from Oregon State University… The boats are customized with a keel, antennas, lights and boxes of computer chips and wires.” Find out more about the kayaks and research here.   Regrowing Morteratsch Glacier with Artificial Snow From New Scientist: “The idea is to create artificial snow and blow it over the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland each summer, hoping it will protect the ice and eventually cause the glacier to regrow… The locals had been inspired by stories that white fleece coverings on a smaller glacier called Diavolezzafirn had helped it to grow by up to 8 metres in 10 years… Oerlemans says it would take 4000 snow machines to do the job, producing snow by mixing air blasts with water, which cools down through expansion to create ice crystals. The hope is that the water can be “recycled” from small lakes of meltwater alongside the glacier… But the costs… are immense.” Find out more about how this works here.   Drones Capture a Major Calving Event From The Cryosphere: “A high-resolution displacement field is inferred from UAV orthoimages (geometrically corrected for uniform scale) taken immediately before and after the initiation of a large fracture, which induced a major calving event… Modelling results reveal (i) that the crack was more than half-thickness deep, filled with water and getting irreversibly deeper when it was captured by the UAV and (ii) that the crack initiated in an area of high horizontal shear caused by a local basal bump immediately behind the current calving front… Our study demonstrates that the combination of UAV photogrammetry and ice flow modelling is a promising tool to horizontally and vertically track the propagation of fractures responsible for large calving events.” Find out more about the study here. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Glacier-Themed Parties

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Glacier-Themed Parties

Spread the News:ShareGlacier-themed parties have been around for a long time, but recently got a boost from the hit Disney movie, Frozen. And in Iceland last year, the first-ever party inside a glacier was thrown during the Secret Solstice festival in Rejkavik. The party was held inside Langjökull glacier, the second largest glacier in Europe. In today’s Photo Friday, we’ll show you some ideas for glacier-themed parties.                 Spread the...

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Meltdown in Canadian Ice Core Facility

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 1 comment

Meltdown in Canadian Ice Core Facility

Spread the News:ShareThe Canadian Ice Core Archive in Edmonton, run by the University of Alberta, recently lost almost 13 percent of their ice cores in a perfect storm of system and equipment failures. The freezer containing thousands of precious ice core samples malfunctioned one weekend in April and the alert that was meant to sound if the freezer failed also faulted. To make matters worse, the system then tried to correct itself, which meant it blew hot air into the room, accelerating the melting of the cores. The temperature in the room rose so high that it set off the fire alarm in the building. Ice cores at the Canadian Ice Core Archive are typically kept at -37°C. But over the weekend, temperatures increased to upwards of 40°C, leaving inches of water on the floor by Monday morning. In the meltdown, the archive lost some of its oldest and most precious ice cores from Northern Canada that glaciologists have been collecting since the 1970s. In total, 4,000 ice core samples were destroyed overnight, sending ripples of concern through the science community. 'Invaluable' ancient Arctic ice cores damaged by freezer failure at University of Alberta. Temperatures reach 40C. https://t.co/ieDZnsDuQF — William Colgan (@GlacierBytes) April 7, 2017 The lost ice cores held 22,000 years of data within their layers and came from such diverse locations as Mount Logan, the tallest peak in Canada, and Baffin Island’s Penny Ice Cap, among other locations. It is no surprise that climate scientists and glaciologists value ice core data for what it can tell us about past climate. Glaciers start as layers of snow, which slowly accumulates, forming ice. Dust, pollen, and bubbles of trapped air in each layer of snow becomes a part of the ice. Ice cores are drilled samples of these layers, each sample telling a story of historical atmospheric and temperature conditions. Thus, storage of ice cores in repositories is extremely important. Replacing the 4,000 lost ice cores in Edmonton is essentially out of the question. Each sample would cost upwards of $1 million dollars to replace and presents massive logistical issues in obtaining new ones due to the remote location of the Arctic. The process of drilling ice cores is extremely time consuming and technically demanding. Ice cores are either drilled with a thermal or mechanical drill, and samples range from one to six meters in length.  It seems the only way forward from this ice core catastrophe is to ensure that the Canadian Ice Core Archive does not have another failure. This involves sharing lessons learned from this incident and other ice core repositories. In times like these, the last thing the world needs is more lost climate data. Fortunately, the archive’s oldest ice from the last continental ice sheet was not in the malfunctioning freezer, a small wrinkle in an otherwise tragic tale.   Spread the...

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Studying Microclimate in Central Chile

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Studying Microclimate in Central Chile

Spread the News:ShareFor map geeks, especially geographers and cartographers, it might be of interest to know about an overlooked peculiarity in Chilean maps. Unlike other countries, perhaps with the exception of Argentina, topographic and nautical charts use the words “glaciar” and “ventisquero” to refer to a glacier or zone filled with perennial snow (see an example for the San Quintín glacier, Chilean Patagonia, here). There are limited references on the web about why “ventisquero” is utilized in these maps, although Wikipedia suggests that this word is utilized in Spain to denote locations where snow accumulates by snowdrift (maybe an inheritance from the conquistadors’ comprehension of snow and ice at the time?). As a “rookie” undergrad glaciologist in my early twenties (around the year 2000), this inconsistency caught my attention during my visit to a glacier in Monte Tronador. Without any background knowledge at that time, I assimilated the word “ventisquero” as meaning that glaciers or perennial snow produce wind (one meaning of ventisquero is “that brings gale”). A few years later, I convinced myself of the existence of this glacier/snow wind when I visited the Pío XI glacier. I experienced a lot of turbulence when passing above the ablation zone by helicopter. Misleading or not, understanding the wind system over glaciers and snow remained on my mind. Thanks to a research grant from the Chilean Council of Sciences (CONICYT) and support from the National Forest Corporation (CONAF), this last year we began a research project to study the features of the atmospheric boundary layer above glaciers and snow, where we expect to provide better understanding of several microclimatic features, including the glacier wind, especially in a regional scenario of less snow and increasing glacier melt and recession. In this research, we combine several methods: climatic observations, numerical climate modeling, and surveys using unmanned aerial vehicles. On March 2017, we carried out our first field campaign to install weather stations in the forefield of the Cipreses and Cotón glaciers, two relatively large ice bodies that feed the Cachapoal river in Central Chile, which in turn power a great share of the Chilean wine industry. Our goal with these observations is to capture any change in near-surface weather conditions when seasonal snow covers the surface. Our campaign began when we drove nearly seven hours from Concepción to the park entrance. We spent the next two days on a 25-km walk (~15 miles) to get to the upper-valley.  Because March corresponds to the end of the summer, we were hit by intense sunshine and temperatures above 30°C (86 F), which slowed us down. Thus, after two days and two river crossings, helped by “arrieros,” horses and mules, we began the installation of the stations, configured to continuously measure near-surface temperature, relative humidity, incoming and outgoing solar radiation (so we get albedo), atmospheric pressure, and wind speed and direction. In all locations, we tried to follow the main axis of the valley, but in one of the cases we had to go closer to the valley wall because the valley gets too narrow. There, we also realized that the Cipreses Glacier had receded quite a lot and was now above a nearly 500-m rock wall. After three days, we left the upper valley hoping the stations will be functioning and recording when we return next October. In the meantime, we expect to find further funding to reach the highest sections of the valley using a helicopter and install climatic sensors on the glacier. The team exhibited a great mood and scientific curiosity, including members Mauricio Aleuy, a B.S. in geography who is working on...

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