Posts Tagged "Alps"

Damming Switzerland’s Glaciers

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Damming Switzerland’s Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareAn estimated 80 percent of Switzerland’s annual water supply will be “missing” by 2100, as glaciers in the Alps retreat under rising temperatures. A recent study by Swiss and Italian researchers addresses this anticipated loss by exploring whether dams could replicate the hydrological role of glaciers. Like glaciers, the dams would contain and store meltwaters at high elevations in the valleys where the glaciers once resided. The authors, Daniel Farinotti of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Alberto Pistocchi of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Matthias Huss of the University of Fribourg, call the approach “replacing glaciers with dams.” Their method seeks to harvest the diminishing glaciers’ waters to maintain Europe’s water supply and contribute to power generation.  . The trio of authors are glaciologists and hydrologists, with expertise in chemistry, engineering, and resource management. Between them they have over 260 published works. Suffice it to say, they know what they are are talking about. Speaking to GlacierHub, Pistocchi said that the idea occurred to him during one of his many cycling trips across the Alps. The possibility gripped him, and he began searching for colleagues in the field of glaciology to help him run scenarios on the future health of glaciers. He met with Huss, who had “recently investigated in depth the contribution of glaciers” to Alpine water resources. Farinotti was soon invited to provide an engineer’s perspective. They studied how to “artificially sustain” the role of glaciers within the local hydrological cycle. The idea simply capitalizes on the natural processes already in motion. Meltwaters from glaciers naturally fill depressions, forming glacial lakes, or, if unimpeded, flowing into local rivers. Farinotti and his team were interested in determining how practical it would be to impound the runoff from melting glaciers with dams at the high elevations where the ice remains intact. They proposed that the glacier meltwater which accumulated would serve a similar role as the glacier had, as they would conserve the water and manage its release during drier seasons, thus maintaining a steady supply, and exploiting the newfound stores for power generation. They found that while extensive melting will continue to provide meltwater from the European Alps in the near future, there are considerable logistical, financial, technical, diplomatic and bureaucratic hurdles to damming and storing it there. Farinotti and his colleagues concluded that while their proposed strategy could preserve sufficient volumes to meet Europe’s water demands through 2100, the supply scheme is unavoidably “non-renewable.” The source glaciers’ volumes are finite, as is the quantity of water that could be dammed. Accordingly, without an additional strategy for replenishing the stores (i.e. pumping in Austria) in the high reaches of the Alps, the supply would eventually run out. Between 1980-2009, glaciers supplied continental Europe with approximately 1,400 trillion gallons (5.28 km3) of freshwater per year — about 1 percent of the total volume consumed by the United States each year. The majority (75 percent) of the melt occurs (unsurprisingly) at the height of summer, from July through September. Rivers flowing from the Alps received considerable contributions from the glaciers at this time every year. During the peak, six percent of the Rhine, 11 percent of the Po, 38 percent of the Inn, and 53 percent of the Rhône comprise glacial meltwater, according to Farinotti and his colleagues. As many modelers do, Farinotti and his colleagues examined the impacts of a range of climate change scenarios on the Alps’ glaciers. They projected the probable volumes of meltwater, and health of glaciers in response to optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic concentrations of greenhouse gases...

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Roundup: How Glaciers Affect and Are Affected By Water

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: How Glaciers Affect and Are Affected By Water

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. Totten Glacier Hurtles Towards Retreat and Possible Collapse From Nature: “Satellite-based observations indicate that the margin of Totten Glacier may be experiencing greater ice loss than anywhere else in East Antarctica. This, coupled with the presence of low-lying subglacial basins upstream means the Totten Glacier catchment area could be at risk of substantial ice loss under ocean-warming conditions.” Learn more about the processes causing this retreat and the potential sea level rise associated with it.   Are Dams the Glaciers of Tomorrow? From Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL: “Water management in reservoirs could substantially mitigate future summer water shortages, expected as a consequence of ongoing glacier retreat, researchers report. The team simulated the effect of climatic change on glaciers across the European Alps and estimated that two thirds of the effect on seasonal water availability could be avoided when storing water in areas becoming ice free.” Find out how these researchers suggest dealing with glacier retreat and water supplies. Scientists Present New Research on Tibet’s Climate Risks From The Columbus Dispatch: “A consortium of scientists from around the world have gathered in Columbus at Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center for the first U.S. meeting about climate issues facing the Tibetan Plateau, a region that includes about 100,000 square kilometers of glaciers that provide drinking water to nearly a third of the Earth’s people.” Read more about the importance of the Tibetan Plateau and why these scientists feel action is so urgently needed. Spread the...

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Roundup: Bacteria Are Doing Well; Zooplankton, Dams Are Not

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 2 comments

Roundup: Bacteria Are Doing Well; Zooplankton, Dams Are Not

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. Project Forecasts India’s Hydrological Future in a Changing Climate From Earth & Space Science News: “The Indian subcontinent is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its diversified socioeconomic and climatic conditions. Changes in monsoon variability and glacier melt may lead to droughts over the Indian plains as well as extreme rains and abrupt floods in the neighboring Himalayas…Through our work with the NORINDIA project, we found that there is a risk of 50% glacier melt in the Beas River basin, which covers northwest India and northeast Pakistan, by 2050.” Learn more about NORINDIA and its work in India.   Chilly Conditions No Match for Methane-cycling Microorganisms From FEMS Microbiology Ecology: “Alpine belt soils harbored significantly more methane-cyclers than ––those of the nival belt, indicating some influence of plant cover. Our results show that methanogens are capable of persisting in high-alpine cold soils and might help to understand future changes of these environments caused by climate warming.” What are the implications of this study? Find out here.   Preliminary Study Looks at Relationship Between Glacial Lakes and Zooplankton From Polish Journal of Environmental Studies: “Zooplankton communities can be affected by glacial influence. In marine environments zooplankton mortality, mainly associated with the chemical properties of the ice, has been found in areas close to ice fields.” Find out which characteristic of glacial lakes is affecting zooplankton. Spread the...

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Bacteria From the Sahara Desert Found on Swiss Glaciers

Posted by on Feb 24, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Bacteria From the Sahara Desert Found on Swiss Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareBacteria living among dust particles from the Sahara have been found trapped in ice and snow on the Swiss Alps at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, according to a December article in Frontiers in Microbiology. The samplings collected from the Jungfraujoch region of Switzerland contained bacteria originally from northwest Africa, meaning these bacteria survived a remarkable wind-blown journey of over 1000 miles. These bacteria are particularly adapted to cope with UV radiation and dehydration stress, say authors Marco Meola, Anna Lazzaro, and Josef Zeyer. In February 2014 there was a strong Saharan dust event. According to the NASA Earth Observatory, dust events occur when powerful African winds uplift sand and dust into the atmosphere. Reaching high altitudes, clouds of dust are then transported across the globe through high altitude wind patterns. Initial uplift events are difficult to predict. In the past researchers collected dust samples via air capture, snatching the particulates, also called bioaerosols, straight out of the air before they landed. But it is difficult to grab enough dust using this method to have a sample size large enough for microbiological analyses, and the act of gathering particulates from the air often damages the samples that are captured. By collecting samples from snowpack in the European Alps, the researchers were able to obtain a pure sample without damaging the integrity and the potential viability of the particulates. Bioaerosols are airborne particles that contain biological matter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes fungi, bacteria, and even viruses. Charles Darwin first discovered bioaerosols on his famous journey across the Atlantic with the crew of the Beagle. He describes them in his 1846 An account of the fine dust which often falls on vessels in the Atlantic Ocean as “67 different organic forms in fine dust particles.” Saharan dust events that travel toward Europe are rare. Because these events are monitored in real-time at the Jungfraujoch meteorological station, researchers are able to connect samples to specific dust events. For their research, Meola, Lazzaro, and Zeyer used samples taken from a depth of 220 cm from an excavated vertical trench in June 2014. The particulates collected and attributed to the February 2014 Saharan dust event were tracked back to Algeria. Surrounding countries like Niger, Mali, and Morocco may have also contributed dust particles. Until they landed on the snow in Jungfraujoch, the bioaerosols stayed high in the upper atmosphere, where they were free from any risk of contamination. Three days after landing, the Sahara Dust particles were covered with fresh snow, preserving them by keeping them cold, insulated, and safe from UV radiation. Meola, Lazzaro, and Zeyer were surprised that one phylum of bacteria, Proteobacteria, was the most common in both the clean-snow control sample and in the Sahara dust sample. What they did discover in the Sahara dust snow samples was an abundance of pigment-producing bacteria from Africa, absent from the clean-snow samples, including the pigment-producing Gemmatimonadetes. These are bacteria that have adapted to cope with high amounts UV radiation, very low temperatures, stress from dehydration, and nutrient deficient conditions. These unique adaptations allow them to survive the long journey from Africa to Europe. It is remarkable that these tiny organisms, adapted to the desert conditions in the Sahara, can survive high in the atmosphere and as well as under the snow. Spread the...

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Ski Resorts Seek Alternatives

Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Sports | 0 comments

Ski Resorts Seek Alternatives

Spread the News:ShareAs snow rapidly disappears from high mountains, ski and winter sport resorts are looking for alternatives to keep their struggling businesses alive. The world’s skiing industry is worth $60 to $70 billion, some estimates say. About 44 percent of ski-related travel is in the alps, while 21 percent is in the United States. In just 30 years, ski resorts in the Alps have seen 30 percent less snow, according to regional authorities. At the same time, temperatures have risen by 1.6 degrees Celsius since the 1960’s and glaciers in the region have lost 26 percent of their surface. For professional skiers, who train on glaciers, this could be bad news. If temperatures rise to 2 or 3 degrees higher, glaciers below 3,000 mertres will melt away, experts from the Hydrology Transfer and Environment Research Laboratory in Grenoble say.   Mont Ventoux ski resort – definitely no snow here #climatechange pic.twitter.com/Txc8T5fWkT — Ute Collier (@Ute_Collier) December 28, 2015 Already, Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe in Savoie, France, has closed off its glacier to skiers. But the resort continues to trigger avalanches on the glacier to replenish its slopes below, depleting its glacier. “Before we trained at a very low elevation, around 2,400 meters, even in July,” French Ski champion Fabienne Serrat, who won two golds medals at the World Championships in 1974, told AFP. “Today many youths who compete go to South America [to train].” Instead, resorts are investing in dog sledding, snowshoeing and sledding to keep tourists coming. Franck Vernay, first deputy mayor of Biot, a small village in Haute-Savoie, in the Rhône-Alpes region, said the ski season in his commune has been closed for three seasons because no profits were being made. “We haven’t given up on skiing but we’ve got to try to lure people in other ways. Otherwise its certain death,” he added.   These Depressing Ski Resort Photos Show The Awful Impact Of California’s #Drought http://t.co/LD0pDIgbAu via @stephemcneal #climatechange — Green Bean (@iamgreenbean) March 24, 2015 In other parts of the world, like California, ski resorts are looking into other high mountain sports, like biking and rafting. Ski seasons have been shortened, so many resorts are now open year-round so they can stay afloat. They are also developing ropes courses, zip lines and disk golf. “It’s not just the tourists going to ski or mountain-bike in these elite destinations, but there are also entire communities relying on hotel jobs, rafting jobs, working at a ski lift,” Diana Madson, executive director of Mountain Pact, an organisation that empowers mountain communities, told the Los Angeles Times. “There are a lot of people who are vulnerable to these impacts.” Spread the...

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