Science

Life on the Rocks: Climate Change and Antarctic Biodiversity

Posted by on Jul 20, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Life on the Rocks: Climate Change and Antarctic Biodiversity

Spread the News:ShareBy now, it’s a familiar story: climate change is melting glaciers in Antarctica, revealing an increasing proportion of ice-free terrain. The consequences of this melt are manifold, and one may be surprising: as more ground is bared, Antarctic biodiversity is expected to increase. Currently, most of the terrestrial biodiversity— microbes, invertebrates, and plants like grasses and mosses— occurs in the less than one percent of continental Antarctica that is free of ice. A recent Nature article predicted that by the end of the 21st century, ice-free areas could grow by over 17,000 square kilometers, a 25 percent increase. This change will produce both winners and losers in Antarctica’s ecosystems, according to Jasmine Lee, lead author on the above paper, and the game will be problematic. “Some of the winners are likely to be invasive species, and increasing invasive species could negatively impact the native species,” Lee told GlacierHub. “More isn’t necessarily better if new species are alien species.” The Antarctic Peninsula, an 800-mile projection of Antarctica that extends towards South America,  is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, and 80 percent of its area is covered by ice. The many outlet glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet primarily shrink through surface melting, which reduces volume, while tidal action spurs calving. Lee and her coauthors constructed two models based on two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate forcing scenarios. Under the strongest IPCC scenario, ice-free areas in the peninsula are expected to increase threefold, and Lee expects biodiversity changes in this region to be obvious by the year 2100. She predicts that some native species will expand their ranges south in response to the creation of new habitat and milder conditions, and invasive species will thrive for the same reasons. This pattern is already apparent in the distribution of a number of penguin species. As climate warms, sea ice-obligate species like Adélie and Emperor penguin are shifting and contracting their ranges southward, seeking sea ice. Likewise, ice-intolerant gentoo and chinstrap penguins, typical of the Subantarctic latitudes, are moving south as the ocean becomes increasingly free of ice. As temperatures continue to rise, this biogeographic chess will play out increasingly across Antarctica. “The greater the degree of climate change, the greater the biodiversity impacts,” predicted Lee. She added that counting an Adélie colony in a “real-life ice-free area” was a highlight of her fieldwork. Interestingly, Lee and her coauthors found that higher biodiversity in the short-term may yield greater homogeneity in the long-term, as invasive species become established and potentially out-compete native species. It’s hard to know how to feel about these ecosystem-wide transitions, said Lee. “The fact that we are driving these changes through anthropogenic climate change should remind us that our actions impact the entire earth, even in what we consider the remotest and most pristine regions. I think we should feel accountable and know that because humans have the power to change the earth, we should do our best to look after it,” she said. On June 1, President Donald Trump made a speech announcing the United States’ exit from the Paris climate agreement, obfuscating international cooperation on climate change mitigation. Lee feels this decision sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, but she hopes that the United States will find a way to continue meeting the environmental standards set forth. “America should be a leader in renewable energy technology and policy. However, I am also hopeful that the American businesses and states can reach the Paris accord milestones for America in spite of Trump. And this will show that...

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Roundup: Seals, Flood Mitigation, and Freezing Levels

Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Seals, Flood Mitigation, and Freezing Levels

Spread the News:ShareSeal Whiskers Detect Ecosystem Change From Polar Biology: “Warm Atlantic water in west Spitsbergen have led to an influx of more fish species. The most abundant marine mammal species in these fjords is the ringed seal. In this study, we used isotopic data from whiskers of two cohorts of adult ringed seals to determine whether signals of ecosystem changes were detectable in this top marine predator.” Find out more about ringed seals here.   Flood Mitigation Strategies in Pakistan From Natural Hazards: “The frequency and severity of flood events have been increased and have affected the livelihood and well-being of millions of people in Pakistan. Effective mitigation policies require an understanding of the impacts and local responses to extreme events, which is limited in Pakistan. This study revealed the adaptation measures adopted in Pakistan, and that the local policies on disaster management need to be improved to address the barriers to the adoption of advanced level adaptation measures.” Find out more about flood risk mitigation in Pakistan here.   Rising Freezing Levels in Tropical Andes From AGU Publications: “The mass balance of tropical glaciers in Peru is highly sensitive to a rise in the freezing level height (FLH). Knowledge of future changes in the FLH is crucial to estimating changes in glacier extents. Glaciers may continue shrinking considerably, and the consequences of vanishing glaciers are especially severe where people have only limited capacity to adapt to changes in the water availability due to, for instance, lack of financial resources.” Find out more about freezing levels in Peru here.   Spread the...

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Shining on a Glacier: Girls on Ice

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Shining on a Glacier: Girls on Ice

Spread the News:ShareOne day last June, something rare took place on Interior Alaska’s Gulkana Glacier— a dance party. As a treat for the final day of Girls on Ice, a glacier-based science education program for teenage girls, instructors lowered each of the nine girls into a crevasse, two at a time, and they used ice axes and crampons to climb out. The day was chilly and the winds were picking up, and the girls started dancing to keep warm. “They were dancing and laughing and shining,” said glaciologist and Girls on Ice instructor Aurora Roth. “I want to hang on to that forever. That’s why I do what I do, to see girls shining in the outdoors.” Girls on Ice began in 1999 when a team of two instructors and five teenage girls spent a week exploring the South Cascade Glacier in Washington. In 2012, a group of graduate students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks decided to adapt the program to Alaska. Each June, eight or nine girls join up with female mountain guides, scientists, and artists to spend a week on the Gulkana Glacier studying glacial processes, creating art, and exploring themes from climate change to socially-prescribed gender roles. “The wilderness setting and single gender field team inspires young women’s interest in science and provides a challenging environment that increases their physical and intellectual self-confidence,” states the program’s mission statement. Pervasive and dangerous gender imbalances in the geosciences necessitate this focus on girls’ physical and intellectual self-confidence. M Jackson, a glaciologist and environmental educator, is troubled by gender dynamics in the sciences today. “While there are women in glaciology, it is not simply an issue of metrics, the number of women in the field, or the number of women-authored publications. I can tell you from personal experience that out in the field on glaciers, in years past, I have almost always been the only woman on the team. This is changing today,” she said. Joanna Young, one of the founders of the Alaska Girls on Ice program, seeks to instill a diverse skill set in each girl she teaches, and show them that there are many ways to view the world. A typical day for the girls might include monitoring a snowmelt experiment near camp, a painting lesson from a visiting artist, and practicing the technical skills that allow the girls to travel in rope teams through crevassed areas. “At the end, we want to look at one landscape and see it through many lenses— as a mountaineer, assessing how to get from Point A to Point B, and what gear she’ll need; an artist, seeing color and texture; and a scientist, asking, how did these mountains come to be? Why is this rock different from that rock?” This interdisciplinary approach resonated with Emma Apitzsch, a 2017 Girls on Ice student who lives in Talkeetna, Alaska, and is training to be a bush pilot and mechanic. Emma reflected, “Before Girls on Ice, I had never stopped and really looked at something from an artistic perspective. Through our different activities, I got to explore new ideas and possibilities to interpret what I was seeing.” The place-based science curriculum at the core of Girls on Ice also changed Emma’s perspective. “Already, I look at a mountain, the trees, a small plant…anything! I look at it a slight differently. I think and observe the ground I stand on a little differently too. What will it all look like in hundreds of thousands of years? Where will all of this be?” she said. “Looking through a science lens has made me...

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Call for Papers: Special Journal Issue on Mountain Cryosphere

Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Call for Papers: Special Journal Issue on Mountain Cryosphere

Spread the News:Share CALL FOR PAPERS: SPECIAL ISSUE ON “IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE HIGH-MOUNTAIN CRYOSPHERE AND ASSOCIATED RESPONSES” The special issue, with guest co-editors Carolina Adler (MRI), Christian Huggel (University of Zurich), Anne Nolin (Oregon State University) and Ben Orlove (Columbia University), will be published in the journal Regional Environmental Change (REC), focusing on the impacts of climate change on the high-mountain cryosphere and downstream regions as well as response to these impacts. Through this special issue, we seek to highlight contributions from the mountain research community in providing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) assessment process with state-of-the-art knowledge and evidence for impacts and adaptation in mountain regions. For this reason, we strongly encourage the mountain research community to make their research known and accessible for this assessment process via this special issue. Paper proposals, as extended abstracts, are to be submitted to the guest editors by 1 August 2017. Selection of Manuscripts In order to assess suitability and relevance of manuscripts as contributions for the special issue, we first request proposals as extended abstracts. The extended abstract should include a tentative manuscript title, an author list with contact information, rationale of the paper in the context of the SROCC Chapter 2 “High Mountains Areas,” key sub-areas to be covered, key disciplinary/inter-disciplinary/trans-disciplinary domains and/or literature to be reviewed and assessed, and provisional key conclusions. The extended abstract should not exceed 1 page and is to be submitted to the guest editors via email at REC-Special-Issue@giub.unibe.ch by 1 August 2017 (midnight CET). A response on selected manuscripts will be communicated by 31 August 2017, with instructions for next steps. Process The review process will be facilitated through the REC review website. A minimum of two external reviews will be solicited per manuscript. Authors submitting papers to the special issue also agree to serve as a reviewer for one or two other papers assigned to the special issue (in compliance with the formal requirements posed by the journal), and submit these within the timeframe specified. Types of manuscripts For this special issue, preference will be given to review and synthesis papers (Review Articles, up to 8000 words) on the issues listed under “examples of paper topics,” however original research articles (typically up to 12 printed pages) that document single and/or adopt a comparative case study research approach, may also be considered if they are sufficiently relevant in the context of the IPCC SROCC. We particularly welcome inter- and trans-disciplinary papers that also seek to integrate the natural and social sciences. Timing Given the strict and short time frame for literature to be assessed in the IPCC SROCC, we expect the publication schedule to be fast-tracked in view of the foreseen cut-off date for accepted papers for the SROCC (October 2018, subject to confirmation). In this context, extensions to deadlines cannot be granted. Deadlines Due date for extended abstracts (paper proposals) 1 August 2017 Response on selected paper proposals 31 August 2017 Final manuscripts due 31 December 2017 Comments back to authors 31 March 2018 Final, revised papers due 31 August 2018 Publication (continuous online publishing) October 2018   Examples of potential paper topics particularly welcomed by the co-editors, in light of some of the key foci listed for Chapter 2 of SROCC, include: Effects of a changing mountain cryosphere on natural hazards and management options for protecting lives, livelihoods, infrastructure, and ecosystems. Impacts from changes in the mountain environment, including low latitudes (e.g. Himalayas, Andes, Africa) on habitability, community livelihoods and culture. Risks for societies that depend on mountain cryosphere for water resources (e.g. human consumption, ecosystems and agriculture), including...

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Roundup: Greenland Earthquake, Mural Restoration, and Phytoplankton

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Greenland Earthquake, Mural Restoration, and Phytoplankton

Spread the News:ShareGreenland Earthquake Triggers Landslide-Induced Tsunami From Temblor: “Over the weekend, a M=4.1 earthquake on Greenland’s western coast caused a massive landslide, triggering a tsunami that inundated small settlements on the coast. At this stage, four people are feared to have died, nine others were injured, and 11 buildings were destroyed. Glacial earthquakes are a relatively new class of seismic event, and are often linked to the calving of large outlet glaciers.” You can read more about the glacial earthquake in Greenland here. Mural Restoration at Glacier National Park From Hockaday Museum of Art: “Early visitors to Glacier Park Lodge were treated to architectural and visual grandeur inside the building that was almost as expansive as the surrounding landscape. The scenic panels covered hundreds of square feet and appeared in a 1939 Glacier Park Lodge inventory as ’51 watercolor panels.’ In September of 2012, Leanne Brown donated the murals to the Hockaday in memory of her grandparents, Leona and Robert Brown, who had saved and restored 15 of the murals.” Learn more about the restored murals here. Phytoplankton Growth in Alaska From AGU Publications: “Primary productivity in the Gulf of Alaska is limited by availability of the micronutrient iron (Fe). Identifying and quantifying the Fe sources to this region are therefore of fundamental ecological importance. Understanding the fundamental processes driving nutrient fluxes to surface waters in this region is made even more important by the fact that climate and global change are impacting many key processes, which could perturb the marine ecosystem in ways we do not understand.” Read more about phytoplankton growth in the Gulf of Alaska here.   Spread the...

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Water Stress in the Naryn River Basin

Posted by on Jun 22, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics, Science | 0 comments

Water Stress in the Naryn River Basin

Spread the News:ShareAround the world, meltwater from snow and glaciers has provided surrounding communities with water for irrigation and hydropower, but climate change is altering the timing and volume of the annual water flow cycle. This issue is pressing in eastern Kyrgyzstan, where the glaciers and snowpack of the Tien Shan Mountains form the headwaters of the Naryn River, which flows westward across Kyrgyzstan before crossing the border into Uzbekistan. A recent study in the journal Water by Alice F. Hill et al. analyzed water chemistry from the Naryn River Basin to find changes in the contribution of mountain headwaters to river discharges that flow downstream to agricultural areas. Agriculture accounts for 29 percent of the country’s GDP (2010 figures) and more than half of its labor force. The study’s aim was to capture key hydrologic transitions over the diverse domain by using a hydro-chemical mixing model, known as End Member Mixing Analysis, to distill multi-variate water chemistry data from samples, in order to quantify water contributions from river discharge to agricultural areas serving larger populations. By using a remotely sensed product to quantify the rain, seasonal snow, and glacial melt inputs, the study found that when glacial ice mass decreases, it contributes less to river water supplies. Government Policies and Water Management These trans-boundary water sources have been a topic of relations between the Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan since their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with water resource management poorly coordinated between the five republics. Recently, new infrastructure, such as dams and diversions, have been developed, creating problems for neighbors that live downstream. “The Kyrgyzstan government insists increased precipitation and snowmelt are to blame for natural hazards and fatalities. Scientists have yet to determine the cause of such weather anomalies in Southern Tian Shan,” said Ryskeldi Satke, a Kyrgyz journalist, in an interview with GlacierHub. “On the other hand, it was known that climate change worries experts and researchers over its impact on snow melt in the Tian Shan and Pamirs. Subsequently, more ground research and cooperation would be needed to explain weather patterns in the region.” Kyrgyzstan has over 8,000 glaciers, accounting for 4.2 percent of the country’s territory. The consumption of irrigation water for agriculture represents 94 percent of total water use, while only three percent is allocated to households and industries. Livelihoods depend on the river flow from these glaciers, which have been shrinking since the 1930s, according to research. In order to better understand the implication of the infrastructure developments, Hill and her colleagues conducted a survey in both upstream and downstream communities. They asked questions relating to changes in water availability for irrigation, food, and recreation, as well as changes in household activities, estimated income, and income structure over the last 15 years. Community Survey The researchers conducted the survey across a 440 km stretch of the Naryn River to better understand the challenges that the people of the Naryn basin face in obtaining adequate water supplies. All communities reported an overall decrease in water access over the last 15 years. Therefore, some communities installed groundwater wells, mainly in higher portions of the basin. Since the 1960s, the Toktogul district, for example, has been limited by low water availability, scarcity in lands and funds, and a lack of trust in the government. Unfortunately, farmers were not given the proper resources or equipment to build an irrigation or water distribution system, according to the study. There was a lack of government support for farmers who were unable to deal with the harsh conditions on their land, the researchers noted. Therefore, yields began to decrease and the irrigation systems deteriorated. This led the farmers and surrounding neighbors to believe...

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