Posts Tagged "alaska"

Photo Friday: Benchmark Glaciers in the USA

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Science | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Benchmark Glaciers in the USA

Spread the News:ShareGlaciers contain about three quarters of the world’s fresh water and cover about 75,000 square kilometers of the U.S. The United States Geological Service (USGS) has been running the Benchmark Glacier program since the late 1950s to track glacier mass balance. Repeat measurements at four selected sites are used in conjunction with local meteorological and runoff data to measure the glaciers’ response to climate change. Results from South Cascade Glacier in Washington and Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers in Alaska provide the longest continuous record of North American glacier mass balance. In 2005, Sperry Glacier in Montana was added to the program, allowing changes in glacier mass in the principal North American climate zones to be tracked. South Cascade Glacier in Washington experiences some of the highest precipitation levels in the lower 48 states of the USA, exceeding 4500mm per annum in some places. Data was first collected from this glacier in 1959.       Gulkana Glacier can be found along the southern flank of the eastern Alaska range. It experiences a continental climate, with large temperature ranges and precipitation that is more irregular and lighter than that experienced in coastal areas.         Wolverine Glacier is also located in Alaska, but is found in the Kenai Mountains on the coast. The maritime climate has low temperature variability and regular, heavy precipitation. Data collection at both Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers began in 1966.         Sperry Glacier is located in the Lewis Range of Glacier National Park in Montana. The climate of the region is influenced by both maritime and continental air masses, but Pacific storm systems dominate. These systems result in moderate temperatures and heavy precipitation, which vary strongly with altitude.     Spread the...

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How Mendenhall Glacier Teaches About Climate Change

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Interviews, Tourism | 0 comments

How Mendenhall Glacier Teaches About Climate Change

Spread the News:Share http://glacierhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/14660123_305920749789253_2535486556819423232_n.mp4 Mendenhall Glacier (Source: Cameron Cowles). Visiting Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska is a memorable experience for about 575,000 visitors each year. A top attraction, the glacier stretches 13 miles across the Juneau Ice Field, terminating on the far side of Mendenhall Lake. Surrounded by 38 other glacial remnants of the last ice age, it remains one of the most visited and visible of Alaska’s glaciers. A trip to Mendenhall offers the opportunity to hike on top of a glacier, drink from a cool stream and talk with other tourists from around the world. Visitors may also interact in the deglaciated landscape with plants, wildlife and birds on one of the trails leading through the Mendenhall Valley and the Tongass National Forest. Most importantly, visitors can witness firsthand the glacial retreat that has visibly altered the Alaskan landscape. U.S. Forest Service Rangers have learned to tell Mendenhall’s tale, a story about the effects of climate change and consequences of a warming planet. A visit to Mendenhall comes with an upsetting observation: glaciers in Alaska are retreating at an alarming rate. The Mendenhall Glacier has receded more than a mile and a half in the last half century, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Unfortunately, glacial retreat will only likely continue due to our warming planet, impacting tourism and the surrounding ecosystem. Animals such as the mountain goat, black bear, porcupine, bald eagle, and beaver, as well as countless plants that grow in the area, will all be affected. That is why the staff of the U.S. Forest Service and John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, are using the Mendenhall Glacier to educate visitors about climate change. “In 1982, the glacier was just another glacier because I didn’t have the experience of watching it disappear over time,” John Neary explained to GlacierHub. “Now that I have watched it quickly shrink, I’m alarmed and feel it should be used to demonstrate how our world is dramatically changing.” For his part, Neary relies on his own experience with the glacier when talking to visitors about climate change. He tells them about the time he was out hiking on a steep trail beside the glacier and his dog fell 90 feet onto the ice. When Visitor Center was opened in 1962 it was just a quarter mile from the glacial face. In 1982, when he first saw it, the face had retreated another half mile. Most recently, he has been watching the glacier retreat further, leaving the lake that it had once reached. Neary works with a team of 25 Forest Service staff to explain these effects to the tourists every day. At the visitor center, visitors can learn about Mendenhall’s glacial retreat through art exhibits, a 15-minute film, and guided walks. With a window facing the glacier, the rangers talk regularly about the effects of climate change. “We describe the mechanics of glaciation, the value of glaciers and the worrisome scale of their disappearance,” says Neary. “But we hope to do much more with this subject in the future.” The glacial retreat of Mendenhall can be easily observed by visitors in photographs at the visitor center or witnessed by repelling deep into the ice caves that are formed when the glacier melts and erodes. Adam DiPietro, a tourist who was exploring one of the ice caves at Mendenhall, described the experience to GlacierHub: “My friend and I discovered the moulin [hole] a couple of weeks ago and came back with gear to descend into it. We repelled 70′ to the bottom and crawled through a small hole at the base…The cave...

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Roundup: Drone Research, Tianshan Glaciers, and Indigenous Alaskans

Posted by on Nov 7, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Drone Research, Tianshan Glaciers, and Indigenous Alaskans

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Drones, Glacier Mass and Vulnerability   Drone Research Points to Global Warming From Pacific Standard: “Aaron Putnam is an hour behind them, hiking with a team of students, research assistants, and local guides. He’s a glacial geologist from the University of Maine, and he and his team are here to collect the surface layer of granite boulders implanted in those moraines that formed at the margins of the glacier…The team hopes that data derived from the rock can tell them when the ice melted. ‘This was the singular most powerful, most important climate event in human history. It allowed us to flourish,’ Putnam says. ‘But we don’t know why that happened.’ Putnam is trying to determine what caused the Ice Age’s demise; the answer could help us identify the triggers that cause abrupt climate change.” Learn more about how the study of glaciers points to our climate’s future here:   Central Asia Feels Effects of Global Warming From Molecular Diversity Preservation International: “Global climate change has had a profound and lasting effect on the environment. The shrinkage of glacier ice caused by global warming has attracted a large amount of research interest, from the global scale to specific glaciers. Apart from polar ice, most research is focused on glaciers on the third pole—the Asian high mountains. Called the Asian water tower, the Asian high mountains feed several major rivers by widespread glacier melt. Changing glacier mass there will have a far-reaching influence on the water supply of billions of people. Therefore, a good understanding of the glacier mass balance is important for planning and environmental adaptation.” Learn more about glacier mass balance and associated environmental adaption here:   Perspectives from Indigenous Subarctic Alaskans From Ecology and Society: “Indigenous Arctic and Subarctic communities currently are facing a myriad of social and environmental changes. In response to these changes, studies concerning indigenous knowledge (IK) and climate change vulnerability, resiliency, and adaptation have increased dramatically in recent years. Risks to lives and livelihoods are often the focus of adaptation research; however, the cultural dimensions of climate change are equally important because cultural dimensions inform perceptions of risk. Furthermore, many Arctic and Subarctic IK climate change studies document observations of change and knowledge of the elders and older generations in a community, but few include the perspectives of the younger population.” Learn more about the younger generation’s perception of climate change and its impacts here:   Spread the...

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Alaska Filmmaker Mike Loso Speaks about Glaciers

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Interviews | 0 comments

Alaska Filmmaker Mike Loso Speaks about Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareThe short firm “Glaciers – Why Should We Care?” is currently being shown as part of International Polar Week. This event, running from 19 to 25 September 2016, is designed to promote polar science and education around the world, and includes a five-day film festival. It is sponsored by the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, headquartered at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. Michael Loso, a scientist at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, is featured in the film, which shows the importance of glaciers in natural ecosystems and in human society. In a recent interview, Loso explained to GlacierHub that he made the video two years ago when he was a professor at Alaska Pacific University. Stacia Bakkensto, a science outreach coordinator with the National Park Service at Fairbanks, suggested the idea of the video to him. She had selected Alaska’s glaciers as the theme for a story map—a set of video, images, texts and data that are presented in GIS form, linked to a map. She approached Loso because he was the lead author on a report from the NPS, Alaskan National Park Glaciers – Status and Trends Final Report, published in 2014. Backensto visited Loso near Kennicott Glacier, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, where he was conducting a field course with students at the university. She shot a good deal of video that day, he recalled, and used some of it for the video featured here. Though that video did not fit into the story map that was produced (that one featured repeat photography of Alaska glaciers), it has circulated in a number of settings, and has received hundreds of views. In the video, Loso stresses that glaciers are important, not just because they are linked to fisheries, to natural hazards and to other things of economic value to humans, but for themselves. He moved to Alaska because the glaciers are so cool—a word he repeats several times. He expresses the sense of “loss to our heritage” that glaciers are shrinking—in part because of human actions. Loso states in the video that glaciers aren’t sentient beings “like wolves and bears,” which are protected through the Endangered Species Act. He adds “we don’t have an endangered glaciers act. If I was president, we would have one.” During the interview, he mentioned that he knew the work of the anthropologist Julie Cruikshank, who has written a book about her field work in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, Do Glaciers Listen? In that book, she discusses the views of the indigenous communities of the region, who believe that glaciers are sentient. Loso paraphrased Cruikshank’s portrayal of the native historical view: “If you behave poorly towards them [the glaciers], they will exact their revenge.” Our modern scientific view is different, he said, and we understand that glaciers are not sentient. Nonetheless, he said, “cause and effect play out. We have behaved with a lack of respect, and much to everyone’s surprise, there’s a set of consequences that rain down on us.” In that way, he said, “the native peoples were right. The glaciers can cause misfortune, and therein lies a lesson for us, regardless of your worldview.” He continued to explain his thoughts. The scientific revolution led us to move past “superstition and myth” by providing a scientific explanation for natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions and tornadoes. We no longer viewed these disasters as consequences of our own behavior. But now “the modern environmental movement has renewed that old sense of culpability.” He cited as an example the recent seismic activity in Oklahoma, which has shown us that humans can cause earthquakes. “Our sense of responsibility...

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Wildfires Melt Glaciers From a Distance

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Wildfires Melt Glaciers From a Distance

Spread the News:ShareScientists have begun to trace a link between climate change, an increased number of wildfires and glacier melting.  Particles emitted by wildfires and then deposited on glaciers are thought to darken the ice’s surface, and may lead to more rapid melting. Natalie Kehrwald, a geologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is currently studying the levels of wildfire particles deposited on the Juneau Icefield in Alaska. Kehrwald and her fellow USGS geologist, Shad O’Neel,  who is tracking the retreat of glaciers in the Juneau Icefield, are working together to document the contributions of wildfires to glacier melting. “In the past two to three years there have been huge wildfires [in Alaska]… I am trying to see if there are aerosols being deposited on the Juneau ice field and if they are accelerating the melting,”  said Kehrwald in an interview with GlacierHub. According to multiple sources, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the non-profit research and news organization Climate Central, rising Arctic temperatures are creating longer and more severe wildfire seasons, with larger and more frequent fires.  Kehrwald proposes that an increase in wildfires has led to a greater volume of aerosols, a mixture of carbon and other particles, deposited onto glaciers.  There may be a minor feedback as well. Since glaciers act as large mirrors and keep the planet cooler by reflecting solar energy back into space, the loss of glaciers could also accelerate the rise in temperaturse. In early August, Kehrwald and O’Neel led a team of student researchers from the Juneau Icefield Training Program into the field, where they gathered ice cores.  They will later analyze these cores for wildfire indicators in a lab.   “We take samples from the highest, flattest parts of the glacier in specific locations that are impacted by air masses.  We drill down 7-9 meters, which date back about two to three years,” said Kehrwald, summarizing their trip. The carbon deposits from wildfires can be grouped into a larger category called black carbon, which have been linked to rapid glacier melting.  Black carbon refers to carbon released from both biomass burning and fossil fuel emissions.  In order to determine whether the carbon on the Juneau Icefield is from wildfires, Kehrwald will look for a specific molecular marker in the ice.   “It is a sugar called levoglucosan and it is only produced if you burn cellulose at a temperature of about 250 degrees Celsius,” said Kehrwald.  “So if you see high concentrations of that molecule you know the origin is biomass burning, which is generally wildfires but could be a big compilation of household fires.” Although the Alaskan wildfires occur predominantly in the boreal forest located in a drier region far north of the Juneau Icefield, smoke from wildfires have been known to travel great distances.  The phenomena of darkening glaciers due to particles from wildfires was well documented last year when large wildfires in British Columbia deposited particles on glaciers across the North American Arctic and as far as Greenland. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, three of the top ten largest Alaskan wildfires since 1940 occurred in the last decade.  In 2015, Alaskan wildfires burned over 5 million acres of land.  Alaska’s burnt acreage represented five-sixths of the national total land consumed by wildfires in that year, according to The Washington Post.  The acreage of wildfire burned land in 2015 is second only to the approximately 6.5 million acres burned in 2004. A 2015 report, The Age of Alaskan Wildfires, produced by non-profit group Climate Central stated that large Arctic wildfires are no longer rare.   “We found the number...

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