Posts Tagged "Alps"

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

The Chameleon Glaciers

Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

The Chameleon Glaciers

Spread the News:ShareCan you spot the glacier on the picture above? Not that easy… Glacier Noir is a debris-covered glacier located in the French Alps. Contrary to clean-ice glaciers which are shiny white or blue ice masses, debris-covered glaciers are ice masses with a layer of rock debris on the top which makes them look like their surrounding environment: they are the “chameleon glaciers”. They are currently called debris-covered glaciers but in the early 2000s, you could hear “debris-mantled glaciers” and even “buried glaciers” in the 1960s. They are often confused with rock glaciers. There are a lot of names and confusion around debris-covered glaciers. Why? Simply because they are difficult to find, define and study as you can imagine from the picture above. Debris-covered glaciers represent around 5% of all mountains glaciers in the world. So why is it important to study them – there are many more clean-ice glaciers, aren’t there? Yes, debris-covered glaciers are a small fraction of all glaciers but like any other glacier, the melting of debris-covered glaciers contributes to sea level rise and there is currently huge uncertainty about how fast they melt compared to clean-ice glaciers. In addition, in the Himalayas, they make up a greater proportion of the glaciers and in many valleys, debris-covered glaciers are the main and often the only source of drinking water, like for example the famous Khumbu Glacier just below Mount Everest on the Nepal side. Some debris-covered glaciers, like the Tasman Glacier, the biggest glacier in New Zealand, are very large features that can be the origin of risks and hazards. The debris layer creates numerous ponds filled with meltwater on the surface of glaciers. These ponds can hold monumental volumes of water that can be suddenly and brutally drained through crevasses in the ice or a breach on their edge. This drainage can create an outburst flood and submerge the valley below. Debris layers on top of glaciers can come from rock falls, like for the Sherman Glacier in Alaska. This rock cover modifies the dynamics of the ice by slowing down the melting happening underneath. This insulation process creates various phenomena, like thickening of the ice under the debris, building hills of ice slowly moving down the glacier or advancement of the glacier’s tongue. These two phenomena can block or deviate water streams and again generate massive floods. A less obvious reason to study debris-covered glaciers is that if glaciers on Mars exist, they are debris-covered. So studying debris-covered glaciers on Earth can contribute to space conquest and the human adventure on Mars. In the same vein, studying current debris-covered glaciers and their behavior in the face of climate change can help us understand and interpret the climate of the past. There is an example of a potential misinterpretation of the Waiho Loop moraine in New Zealand in front of the Franz-Joseph Glacier: 12000 years there was a worldwide cooling event (called Younger Dryas) that might have led to the formation of the very large moraine of Waiho Loop. Or, a massive rock avalanche landing on Franz-Joseph Glacier triggered its advance and the deposition of the moraine. I’ve already described a few examples of debris-covered glaciers: Glacier Noir, Khumbu Glacier, Tasman Glacier, Sherman Glacier and maybe Franz-Joseph Glacier. But where else can you find debris-covered glaciers? They can actually be found in every mountain range: from the Miage Glacier (Italy) in the European Alps with  to the Inylchek Glacier (Kyrgyzstan) or Langtang (Nepal) glaciers in the Asian High Mountain; from the Black Rapids Glacier (Alaska) in the Rocky Mountains and the Dome Glacier (Canada), to the Andes...

Read More

New Glacial Lakes to Transform Swiss Landscape

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

New Glacial Lakes to Transform Swiss Landscape

Spread the News:Share In 1983 this lake was a glacier (Monday, Switzerland) #climatechange @Sportscene_tv pic.twitter.com/vls2CY9bST — Nick H. (@nickhdg) September 28, 2013 Ongoing climate change is causing glaciers in the Swiss Alps to shrink dramatically, and some predict they will disappear entirely by the end of the century. As they melt over the coming decades, Swiss scientists estimate that 500 to 600 new lakes covering close to 50 square kilometers of land will form in Switzerland. That’s about the equivalent of two Lake Eries, the eleventh largest lake in the world. “The rapid melting of glaciers is radically changing the Alpine landscape,” world renowned Swiss glacier expert and University of Zurich professor Wilfried Haeberli reported at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, according to Spiegel. flooding in Lucerne, switzerland (Source: Flickr/Nick Edelen) Haeberli and a team of scientists recently completed a project that attempts to predict where and when these new lakes will form using glacier bed models and time-based ablation scenarios for all Swiss glaciers. Using case studies, they also looked at the potential natural hazards that could be created by these new lakes, the development potential they might offer in terms of hydroelectric energy and tourism and legal issues they might present in terms of ownership, liability, exploitation and conservation. One lake in particular they studied was Lake Trift in the Valley of Gadmen, which appeared in the 1990s due to melting of the Altesch Glacier. Local authorities built a breathtaking suspension bridge over the lake that has since become a tourist attraction. Energy companies are also considering putting it to use for the generation of hydroelectric power. The creation of a dam, which would be necessary for such a project, would likely diminish the attractiveness of the site for tourists, but it could protect the area against the risk of flooding. suspension bridge at Trift lake (Source: Flickr/Bossl) “Whether the lake remains natural or becomes artificial, there is a significant risk of rock or ice avalanches due to the longterm destabilisation of slopes previously supported by the Trift glacier and the potential collapse of the current glacier tongue,” the scientists write. “Such avalanches can trigger a surge wave in the lake with disastrous consequences. The construction of a dam of adequate size could protect the area from floods and allow for the generation of power but it would reduce the appeal for tourists.” Haeberli and his colleagues urge that debates over some of these complex issues begin now, before the Swiss landscape transforms from one of glaciers to one of glacial lakes. Spread the...

Read More

An Icy Art Installation Clear As Crystal

Posted by on Jan 7, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

An Icy Art Installation Clear As Crystal

Spread the News:Share“Thinning Ice”, an installation commissioned by Swarovski for its ninth year at Design Miami (December 3 – 7, 2014), links melting glaciers and climate change through a three-dimensional experience. Architect Jeanne Gang collaborated with James Balog, a National Geographic filmmaker/photographer, to create the installation, which includes a kind of glacier sculpture and a series of photographs, as well as video. The installation was inspired by Balog’s photographs of the shrinking Stubai Glacier in the Austrian Alps, where Swarovski is headquartered, over a three-year period. The Stubai photographs are part of Balog’s ongoing “Extreme Ice Survey,” an innovative, long-term photography project founded in 2007. The project consists of 28 cameras at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalayas, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains of the United States, which have been recording the rapidly depleting glaciers every thirty minutes over the past several years. In an effort to bring Balog’s photographs to life, Gang displayed a fluid-formed luminous block, which represents a melting glacier, in the center of the room. This structure, which resembles a kind of table, is pocked with asymmetric holes embedded with a diverse selection of Swarovski crystals, from unprocessed fragments and shards to finely finished pieces. The holes are meant to resemble cryoconite holes, tiny perforations found on glaciers that are created by wind-blown dust made of rock particles, soot and microbes. Glacial Environment for Swarovski: At the Design Miami 2014, American artist Jeanne Gang des… http://t.co/9bo5gL3v9p #Mysecretshowroom — My Secret Showroom (@Secret_showroom) December 14, 2014 The installation’s floor is set with curving illuminated cracks, also filled with small bits of Swarovski crystal, which resemble the crevasses one might find in a receding glacier. Gang finished the installation room with an 11.5-foot tall and a 70-foot long media wall, which presented a running slideshow of epic photographs and video footage of the world’s glaciers.   “‘Thinning Ice’ is a work which captures the haunting beauty of the Earth’s threatened glaciers in a powerful, almost elegiac way,” said Nadja Swarovski, a member of the Swarovski Executive Board, in a statement. The immersive nature of the work is meant to inspire visitors to contemplate the implications of and solutions to the melting of the world’s glaciers. Swarovski chose to showcase glaciers in Florida to highlight its commitment to sustainability. For 14 years, the company has funded its Swarovski Waterschool Program, which educates children around the world in the principles of sustainable water management. Swarovski also sources materials from suppliers that comply with the United Nations Global Compact’s human rights and environmental standards. GlacierHub has posted other stories recently about artists from the United States, Italy, and Peru whose work centers on glaciers. Spread the...

Read More