Posts Tagged "Chile"

Flooding Glacial Lakes in Chile

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Flooding Glacial Lakes in Chile

Spread the News:ShareIt is a peaceful experience to walk near the glacial lake near Colonia Glacier, one of several prominent glacier lakes in Patagonia, Chile. The breeze on the lake helps you relax as you look out on the distant glaciers. In such a tranquil setting, it is hard to imagine that a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOFs) could pose a threat to the area. However, GLOFs have become a significant but poorly understood hazard of a warming global climate. The truth is, melting Colonia Glacier, located in the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Chile, has caused dozens of GLOFs over the years. The lake near Colonia Glacier, Cachet II, has been drained frequently after unexpected floodings. The people living nearby are under constant threat of a sudden flood, which could completely destroy homes and livelihoods. Actually now, in the Chilean and Argentinean Andes, recent research by project member Pablo Iribarren Anacona has identified at least 31 glacial lakes have failed since the eighteenth century, producing over 100 GLOF events. “These lakes can be dangerous, and we need to take action,” Alton Byers, a geologist at the University of Colorado, told GlacierHub. A group of scientists concerned about GLOF risk have initiated a project, “Glacier Hazards in Chile,” which aims to answer key questions concerning past, present and future glacial hazards in Chile. One of the members is Ryan Wilson, a glaciologist at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. “The project will assess the changing magnitude, frequency, and distribution of different glacial hazards in Chile under current and future global climate change,” Wilson explained to GlacierHub. At the moment, Wilson and the other researchers are focusing on understanding the processes that govern the development of GLOFs in Chile. The fieldwork of Wilson and his team was recently featured in Science. The them held a workshop at Aberystwyth University in July 2016, during which they discussed progress on their Chilean fieldwork, glacial lake mapping, glacial hazard assessment, outburst flood modeling and climate modeling. To assess GLOFs and GLOF risk, the team compiled a glacial lake inventory for the central and Patagonian Andes (1986 – 2016). Wilson said they used remote-sensing and fieldwork to find past GLOF sites around the major icefields, satellite glaciers and snow-and ice-capped volcanoes of Chile. “We have managed to use this lake inventory to inform field campaigns in February to two interesting glacial lake sites in Chile,” Wilson said. “We conducted aerial drone surveys and collected lake bathymetry data.” The team will next analyze flood hydrographs (a graph showing the rate of flow versus time past a specific point in a river) of selected former GLOFs and use these to establish the patterns of downstream impacts. They are proud of their work so far, which they hope to publish soon. Using the inventory across Chile, the team and local community  are able to assess the potential damage GLOFs can cause. Wilson et al. plan to “conduct numerical simulations of downstream impacts for selected potential GLOF sites using physically-based numerical flood models.” In collaboration with Chilean partners, this research will be used to develop early warning systems and raise awareness about quantified GLOF risks. Glacial hazards have threatened various commercial and governmental stakeholders across Chile, making GLOFs a pressing priority. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide a framework that can be applied to other lower income countries, since GLOFs pose threats in multiple countries. “We will make recommendations for GLOF hazard assessment protocols and mitigation strategies in lower income countries globally,” Wilson told GlacierHub. Spread the...

Read More

Studying Microclimate in Central Chile

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Studying Microclimate in Central Chile

Spread the News:ShareFor map geeks, especially geographers and cartographers, it might be of interest to know about an overlooked peculiarity in Chilean maps. Unlike other countries, perhaps with the exception of Argentina, topographic and nautical charts use the words “glaciar” and “ventisquero” to refer to a glacier or zone filled with perennial snow (see an example for the San Quintín glacier, Chilean Patagonia, here). There are limited references on the web about why “ventisquero” is utilized in these maps, although Wikipedia suggests that this word is utilized in Spain to denote locations where snow accumulates by snowdrift (maybe an inheritance from the conquistadors’ comprehension of snow and ice at the time?). As a “rookie” undergrad glaciologist in my early twenties (around the year 2000), this inconsistency caught my attention during my visit to a glacier in Monte Tronador. Without any background knowledge at that time, I assimilated the word “ventisquero” as meaning that glaciers or perennial snow produce wind (one meaning of ventisquero is “that brings gale”). A few years later, I convinced myself of the existence of this glacier/snow wind when I visited the Pío XI glacier. I experienced a lot of turbulence when passing above the ablation zone by helicopter. Misleading or not, understanding the wind system over glaciers and snow remained on my mind. Thanks to a research grant from the Chilean Council of Sciences (CONICYT) and support from the National Forest Corporation (CONAF), this last year we began a research project to study the features of the atmospheric boundary layer above glaciers and snow, where we expect to provide better understanding of several microclimatic features, including the glacier wind, especially in a regional scenario of less snow and increasing glacier melt and recession. In this research, we combine several methods: climatic observations, numerical climate modeling, and surveys using unmanned aerial vehicles. On March 2017, we carried out our first field campaign to install weather stations in the forefield of the Cipreses and Cotón glaciers, two relatively large ice bodies that feed the Cachapoal river in Central Chile, which in turn power a great share of the Chilean wine industry. Our goal with these observations is to capture any change in near-surface weather conditions when seasonal snow covers the surface. Our campaign began when we drove nearly seven hours from Concepción to the park entrance. We spent the next two days on a 25-km walk (~15 miles) to get to the upper-valley.  Because March corresponds to the end of the summer, we were hit by intense sunshine and temperatures above 30°C (86 F), which slowed us down. Thus, after two days and two river crossings, helped by “arrieros,” horses and mules, we began the installation of the stations, configured to continuously measure near-surface temperature, relative humidity, incoming and outgoing solar radiation (so we get albedo), atmospheric pressure, and wind speed and direction. In all locations, we tried to follow the main axis of the valley, but in one of the cases we had to go closer to the valley wall because the valley gets too narrow. There, we also realized that the Cipreses Glacier had receded quite a lot and was now above a nearly 500-m rock wall. After three days, we left the upper valley hoping the stations will be functioning and recording when we return next October. In the meantime, we expect to find further funding to reach the highest sections of the valley using a helicopter and install climatic sensors on the glacier. The team exhibited a great mood and scientific curiosity, including members Mauricio Aleuy, a B.S. in geography who is working on...

Read More

Photo Friday: Forest Fires Rage on Glacier-Covered Peaks in Chile

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, News | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Forest Fires Rage on Glacier-Covered Peaks in Chile

Spread the News:ShareChile is experiencing the worst forest fires in the country’s history after years of drought.  The fires are currently spanning roughly 104,800 hectares or 400 square miles, burning mountains that also harbor glaciers. For example, Mount Llaima, located in Conguillio National Park in the Andes, is covered in glaciers and caught up in the fires. Mitigation efforts have been underway with water-bombing aircraft being supplied by the United States. While ash and soot have been deposited on the glaciers, winds have directed debris away from areas where glaciers are predominant. See images from Chile’s catastrophic fires. 4,000+ have lost their homes in #Chile's worst forest fire. #LatAm Ambassadors are raising funds to rebuild them https://t.co/xuOx2bwLDt pic.twitter.com/pDftplHjAc — One Young World (@OneYoungWorld) February 6, 2017                     Chilean forest fire experts show #EUCivPro specialists helicopter response of the #wildfires in Maule region, #Chile https://t.co/8dAz0fFxBd pic.twitter.com/EdLNYOYNpy — EU Humanitarian Aid (@eu_echo) February 3, 2017 Spread the...

Read More

Toxic Algal Blooms: Expert Adaptors to Climate Change

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Toxic Algal Blooms: Expert Adaptors to Climate Change

Spread the News:ShareMost people think of algae as the bothersome green stuff that grows on the tops of ponds and needs to be removed from the inside of fish tanks, but algae also provides clues about the environment. The response of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) to climate change, for example, provides evidence that some algae are extremely efficient environmental adaptors. HABs are formed when colonies of algae living in fresh or saltwater grow out of control and begin producing toxic effects that can threaten the health and lives of animals and humans. According to NOAA, they have occurred in every coastal state in the United States and are increasing in frequency due to rising temperatures associated with climate change. As a result, HAB responses to climate change, including changes in pH and CO2, have been increasingly studied. These responses include the expansion of the blooms into larger areas and an increased release of toxic poisons with warming temperatures. In a recently published paper, Mardones et al examine a special type of algal bloom found to be an expert adaptor to climate change. This strain of algal blooms called Alexandrium catenella occurs in highly variable fjord systems in southern Chile.  These Chilean fjords have had to respond to fluctuations in CO2 and pH. They experience huge freshwater inputs from Patagonian ice fields and heavy precipitation events. When dissolved in water, CO2 forms carbonic acid, which has a low pH. Therefore, levels of CO2 and pH are inversely correlated. As CO2 increases due to climate change, algal blooms in the fjords produce more Paralytic Shellfish Toxin (PST). This toxin could have long-term effects on the fish population and therefore the entire food web and ecosystem in the fjord. In an article by Pedro Costa, he describes how these neurotoxins can have a lasting impact: poisoned fish can be consumed by seals and humans, causing health issues or even death. As we expect CO2 to continue to rise, it is very likely harmful algal blooms like the ones in Chile will produce more PST, leading to more fish kills, disturbed ecosystems in the fjords, and possible human health issues. During their research, Mardones et al explored six levels of CO2/pH and two light conditions to examine how the algal blooms react. The scientists identified key differences in the waters in the fjord closest to the melting ice fields and the waters in the fjord further offshore. The near-shore water in the fjord experiences the largest impact of the freshwater inputs from the ice fields. The freshwater means that the upper layers of the water are much less salty compared to lower layers. This creates an intense halocline (stronger layers of differences in salinity) in the water column.  Strong winds in the region mix the layers, which produce highly fluctuating differences in carbonate chemistry. As Patagonian glaciers continue to melt, even more freshwater will be introduced into the fjords, which will continue to change the conditions of the water.   On the other hand, the more stable offshore waters have CO2 equilibrium with the atmosphere. The main environmental driver offshore is human-caused ocean acidification. As CO2 emissions increase in the atmosphere, it dissolves in oceans and lowers the pH of the water. For most species, this causes huge problems, but certain types of algal blooms are able to adapt to these conditions. Previous studies done by Tatter et al. show that a type of the same algal bloom from Southern California have previously changed their physiological responses due to changing pCO2/pH. Under higher CO2 conditions, production of Paralytic Shellfish Toxin increased. In 2015, there...

Read More

Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Does Glacier Retreat Promote Invasive Species?

Spread the News:ShareA recent study suggests that glacier reatreat may contribute to spread of a noxious invasive algae species in Chile. The particular species is a kind of algae, Didymosphenia geminata, commonly called “didymo.” Since this microscopic organism, a kind of planktom, forms thick dense mats that coat rocks, it is also known as “rock snot.” Vivián Montecino and her co-authors report on the spread of this species in a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science of The Total Environment. They discuss a recent bloom of this species that occurred in 13 river basins in Chile between 2010 to 2015, extending over 1800 kilometers in central and southern Chile. Didymo has been found around the world. The dense algae mats are a problem because they are unpleasant, creating problems for tourism and sport fishing. Moreover, they interfere with local ecology, since they cover rocks that are the habitat for larve of aquatic insects, disrupting aquatic food webs. Didymo is native to the northern hemisphere, but recently has extended its range to the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and, as this study shows, Chile. It spreads rapidly and has proved very difficult to eradicate. The researchers gathered water samples at over 300 sites between 2010 and 2015 in 13 river basins, assessing physical and chemical characteristics of the samples and checking for the presence of didymo. They found that in Chile, as in other regions, it is concentrated at site with low water temperatures and in streams that have low concentrations of phosphorus. They noted the presence in didymo in nearly all the rivers in Chile with these characteristics, suggesting that it may not continue to spread in the future. They note that didymo took a similar amount of time, about 6 years, to spread across the South Island of New Zealand, reaching its full extent in that time. The authors note that the spread of didymo to the south may be associated with glacier retreat. They comment that glacier retreat in the watershed of the Baker River is associated with increased stream flow in the summer, leading to a lowering of phosphorus concentrations which favor the species. The Baker River drains the rapidly shrinking Northern Patagonian Icefield. This research demonstrates the complex consequences of glacier retreat. It seems paradoxical that the dilution of nutrients such as phosphorus associated with increased stream flow could favor invasive species, but dense mats of rock snot that cover the rocks along stretches of the Baker River demonstrate this association. As glaciers change, the ecosystems in the rivers fed by their meltwater also change, often for the worse. Spread the...

Read More