Tourism

Glaciers, Geoheritage and Geotourism

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics, Science, Tourism | 0 comments

Glaciers, Geoheritage and Geotourism

Spread the News:ShareThe Valais in southern Switzerland is a mountainous canton that draws tourists each year for its spectacular scenery, including some of the largest glaciers in the central Alps. From a recent article written by Emmanual Reynard in Geoheritage and Geotourism, we learn that more than half of the canton’s workforce are employed by the tourism sector. Valais has long been a tourist hub in Switzerland, attracting sightseers and skiers to the two alpine ranges that lie on either side of the canton. This landscape played an important role in European art and literature, and Valais is also known as a key site for the development of glaciology. Tourists venture to the province not only for a glimpse of frosted peaks such as the famous Matterhorn and Weisshorn, but also to engage with the canton’s long history of geotourism and geoheritage which dates back to the 1800s.  The word geoheritage originates from the term “geological heritage,” and is defined by the diversity of geological features within a region. The Geological Society of America (GSA) applies the term to scientifically and educationally significant sites or areas with geologic features such as distinctive rocks, minerals and landforms. Geotourism is the exploration of such places. Sarah Strauss, an anthropologist at the University of Wyoming, has conducted extensive research in the Valais region. She believes that geoheritage is “very similar to landscape and a sense of place that is specific to the geologic rather than the broader environmental context.” Moreover, geoheritage is valuable because it permits geotourism. Canton Valais’s long history with tourism has reinforced its status as a geotourism hot-spot as climbers and hikers come to experience this glacial history for themselves.   As the GSA explains, “geological sites are critical to advancing knowledge about natural hazards, groundwater supply, soil processes, climate and environmental changes, evolution of life, mineral and energy supplies, and other aspects of the nature and history of Earth.” These sites should be protected and cherished for their natural beauty and importance. The tourism industry in Valais continues to celebrate its geoheritage through geotourism. The complex geology of Valais— the result of uplift and compression when the Alps first formed 20 to 40 million years ago— has made it a site of geoheritage throughout the centuries. Today, tourists and hikers can view crystalline and carbonate rocks formed millions of years ago on trails rising 800 to over 4,200 meters in elevation. Moreover, the region contains glacial valleys and horn peaks, as well as moraines, the masses of dirt and rocks deposited by glaciers. The Aletsch region of Valais is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is heralded as a site of outstanding natural and cultural importance. This region makes up the most glaciated part of the High Alps along with Jungfrau and Bietschhorn. The Aletsch is also home to the largest glacier in Europe. “While the Matterhorn is impressive, the Aletsch region is equally remarkable,” Strauss recalled to GlacierHub. “There were chapels and hotels built at the tongue of the glaciers.” Tourists that journey to Canton Valais will not be disappointed by the geologically significant province which embraces its geoheritage wholeheartedly. If you are unable to make the journey to Switzerland any time soon, enjoy pictures from the Valais tourism website here. Spread the...

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Hardangerjøkulen: The Real-Life Hoth is Disappearing

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, News, Science, Tourism | 0 comments

Hardangerjøkulen: The Real-Life Hoth is Disappearing

Spread the News:ShareAny Star Wars fan will recognize the remote ice planet Hoth, the location of some of the most iconic scenes from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, including the attack on the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base by Imperial Walkers and Han Solo’s daring rescue of Luke Skywalker after his tauntaun was attacked by a wampa. Not many people, however, would know that those legendary scenes were filmed on a Norwegian ice cap called Hardangerjøkulen. When the movie was filmed in 1980, the crew had to cope with subzero temperatures and freezing winds. However, nearly forty years later, the real-life Hoth is disappearing. According to a recent paper by Henning Akesson et al., published in The Cryosphere, the ice cap is extremely sensitive to small changes in temperature, and therefore vulnerable to climate change as global temperatures continue to increase. Akesson explains in an article for ScienceDirect that due to increasing temperatures, it is feasible that Hardangerjøkulen could fully melt by 2100 if the trends continue. Once it melts, he and his team maintain that the ice cap will never return. As the authors of the study explain, Hardangerjøkulen is located in southern Norway and measured 73 square kilometers as of 2012. It is generally flat in the interior and has several steeper glaciers along the edge of the ice cap that drain the plateau. Two of these glaciers, Midtdalsbreen and Rembesdalsskaka, have retreated 150 meters and 1386 meters respectively since 1982. Akesson et al. base their study of Hardangerjøkulen on modeling, as opposed to measurements or observations. The team used a numerical ice flow model to produce a plausible ice cap history of Hardangerjøkulen thousands of years before the Little Ice Age. Using a modelled history of the ice cap, they examined the sensitivity to different parameters. They found that it is “exceptionally sensitive” to changes in temperature. These changes in temperature impact the ice cap’s surface mass balance, which is the gain and loss of ice from a glacier system. The possible disappearance of Hardangerjøkulen has many implications, including impacting Norway’s tourism and hydropower industries. 99 percent of all power production in Norway comes from hydropower, which depends on glaciers’ water storage and seasonal water flow. Glaciers help contribute to water reservoirs used for the hydropower, and Norway itself contains nearly half of the reservoir capacity in Europe. The ice cap is also a popular destination for hiking and glacier walking, as well as for Star Wars fans hoping to visit the location of Hoth scenes. Local residents have remarked on noticeable differences in Hardangerjøkulen. Grete Hovelsrud, a senior researcher at the Nordland Research Institute and vice-president of the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research, told GlacierHub that the potential loss of Hardangerjøkulen is “very sad.” She added, “It is such a beautiful place. I skied across it last spring, and it really feels like being on top of the world.” Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Jotunheimen National Park

Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Tourism | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Jotunheimen National Park

Spread the News:ShareJotunheimen National Park in southern Norway contains more than 250 mountains, including Norway’s two tallest peaks, Galdhøpiggen (2469 metres above sea level) and Glittertind (2465 metres above sea level). Its name means “Home of the Giants” and it is located within the Scandinavian Mountains. Its glacier-carved landscape is a popular camping, hiking and fishing location, as the park’s official website explains. With up to 60 glaciers, the spectacular scenery and diverse wildlife – including reindeer, elk, deer, wolverine and lynx – make it a popular tourist destination.               The park attracts thousands of people every year, ranging from those looking for easier hikes, to those seeking thrilling adventures, as can be seen in this video.     Check out more photos of Jotunheimen National Park here.   Spread the...

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Malia Obama Visits Andean Glaciers

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, News, Tourism | 0 comments

Malia Obama Visits Andean Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareMalia Obama, the eldest daughter of former President Barack Obama, recently visited the glaciers of Peru and Bolivia during a gap year before entering Harvard as an undergraduate this fall. Her guides were unaware they were traveling with the president’s daughter during the 83-day journey, although they were told that an important American dignitary was accompanying them. Malia traveled with the Colorado-based educational travel company Where There Be Dragons, along with 16 other young people, through the Andes and Amazon program. 🇺🇸🇧🇴#MaliaObama visitó #Bolivia en el marco de“un programa académico previo a la universidad ➡️ https://t.co/g7wCJdtXK3 pic.twitter.com/qaWOthkUht — Conclusión (@ConclusionRos) January 20, 2017 Photos from the trip were later shared across social media. One image shows Malia in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountain range, which is part of the Andes. The mountain range, made mostly of granite, lies southeast of Lake Titicaca and east of La Paz, acting as a barrier between the Altiplano Plateau and the Amazon Rain Forest. The region is dense with glaciers because air from the nearby Amazon lowlands is very moist and contributes to glacier formation. The Cordillera Real also includes the iconic mountain Huayna Potosí, which is only fifteen miles north of La Paz and can be seen from the neighboring city, El Alto. It is the most visited mountain in Bolivia and is popular among climbers. Malia promised to return to Bolivia one day to climb Huayna Potosí. The Zongo Glacier located on Huayna Potosí is larger than most glaciers in the Cordillera Real but is rapidly melting. In 2013, it had an area of 1.876 km² with a catchment (where snow and ice are added and removed) of 3.3 km². The glacier has shrunk significantly from 1994 to 2014, losing 7 meters of thickness and retreating by 220 meters from a nearby lake, according to an analysis done through Google Earth images. Glaciers remain an important water resource for people in the region. The people of Bolivia are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Last November, Bolivia declared a state of emergency due to the worst drought in 25 years. Two glaciers on the mountain Tuni Condoriri that provide water for the cities of El Alto and La Paz have receded by about 40% from 1983 to 2006, at a rate of .24 km² a year. They typically provide an estimated 10% to 15% of the water for El Alto and La Paz, according to updated figures provided by Dirk Hoffmann, coordinator of the Bolivian Mountain Institute and an expert on climate change. The water is also necessary for the health of agriculture, ecosystems and hydroelectric plants in the region. “The trip has given Malia a first-hand view of Bolivian glaciers,” Hoffmann reported to GlacierHub. “I just hope someone told her how the glaciers are getting smaller and smaller each year. What has taken thousands of years to grow – the Andean glaciers – is being lost in a lifetime.” As a security measure, satellites tracked the group’s movement and 10 marines stayed within 50 meters. Eduardo Quispe,who works as a mountain guide at the company Bolivian Mountain Guides and described Malia’s trip to GlacierHub, said that the group took a five-day tour of the Eastern Cordillera Oriental, starting from Laguna Kothia, a glacier lake, and ending at the base of Huayna Potosi. The group reached heights between 4,850 meters to 5,100 meters. One Marine fell ill from altitude sickness and had to be carted back by mule. During the tour, Malia fished for trout in a lagoon, ate traditional South American foods like chuño (which consists of freeze dried potatoes) and drank coca tea....

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The Skagit Eagle Festival

Posted by on Jan 19, 2017 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Tourism | 0 comments

The Skagit Eagle Festival

Spread the News:ShareThe Bald Eagles of the Skagit River (source: Joshua Johnson/YouTube). Floating down the Skagit River in Washington state in a small boat in the winter, you will likely spot many bald eagles along your trip. With wings spreading wide, the eagles soar freely in the sky, having recently returned from northern Canada and Alaska to the Skagit River to hunt migrating salmon. The Skagit salmon depend on the glaciers of the Cascade Range to keep the waters of the river healthy and optimal for breeding. With an abundant salmon population, the eagle’s numbers have become so plentiful during the winter season that the region runs a month-long eagle-watching festival and a year-round interpretive center dedicated to the migrating birds. During eagle-watching season in eastern Skagit County, which begins in January, tourists and birdwatchers arrive from all over the world to track the bald eagles. First started in 1987, the Skagit Eagle Festival is now a popular annual event. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in the small town of Concrete, it features many activities, including local music, floating tours, outdoor walks and educational programs, including a Salmon Run along the river. During this year’s Skagit Eagle Festival, Native American celebrations also took place along the glacier-fed river, which remains very important to the local tribes. The Samish Indian Nation’s cultural outreach coordinator Rosie Cayou-James and native musician Peter Ali teamed up to organize a special “Native Weekend” at Marblemount Community Hall, featuring Native American history, storytelling and more. Local tribal elders and experts made educational presentations and performed native music at the event. Cayou-James, the main organizer of the weekend, told GlacierHub, “The eagle festival is a way to honor the ancestors. I cannot speak for the other tribes, but the Samish feel very connected to eagles and orcas.” The Skagit River runs from high in the Cascades to Puget Sound, benefiting both the people and animals that live along the river. It provides a habitat for the five major species of Pacific salmon. Consequently, the river has the country’s largest wintering populations of eagles outside of Alaska. But the health of the eagle and fish populations in the Skagit River depends on the health of the glaciers of the region, which are suffering as a result of climate change. “Climate change has damaged the natural flow of salmon, which is the main source of survival for resident eagles and orcas,” Cayou-James explained to GlacierHub. Samish history instructs members to protect the proper relationship to the land and its resources, including the Skagit River and surrounding glaciers, by teaching how the natural and spiritual worlds “cannot be separated,” according to the Samish Indian Nation website. In total, there are around 375 glaciers in the Skagit River watershed, as reported by the Skagit Climate Science Consortium. The glaciers keep the flow of the Skagit River high throughout the summer. In addition, glacier water keeps nearby rivers at low temperatures throughout the year, making them optimal for salmon. The salmon rely on the cool glacier-fed water to survive. Without glaciers, stream temperatures become higher and keep climbing, becoming lethal to adult salmon. Because glaciers are extremely sensitive to climate change, higher temperatures have increased rates of melting, reducing snow accumulation in the winter and changing the timing and duration of runoff. Worse even, the glaciers of the Cascades have not been able to fully rebuild themselves in the winter through accumulated snowfall. The glaciers of the Cascades have shrunk to half of what they were a century ago, according to the United States Geological Survey. In addition, the average winter freezing elevation in the Skagit has risen consistently...

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Photo Friday: The Glacial Alaska Range

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Images, Tourism | 0 comments

Photo Friday: The Glacial Alaska Range

Spread the News:ShareThe Alaska Range is a narrow, 700-kilometer mountain range defined by rugged peaks and large U-shaped glacial valleys. The range lies in the southeast corridor of Alaska and is home to Denali, the tallest peak in North America. The Alaska range is part of the American Cordillera and possesses peaks only trumped by those in the Himalayas and Andes. For many decades, the Alaska Range has played host to an incredible variety of landscapes and ecology, with visitors traveling from all over the world to hike, climb and sight see in Denali National Park. One-sixth of Denali National Park, or approximately one million acres, is covered by glaciers, which transport thousands of tons of ice each year, according to the National Park Service. Take a look at GlacierHub’s collection of images of Alaska’s impressive peaks and low valleys shaped by glacial activity over the past million years.                 Spread the...

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