Posts Tagged "glacier retreat"

Roundup: River Outlets, Plant Habitats, and Village Partners

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: River Outlets, Plant Habitats, and Village Partners

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Canadian River Vanishes, Plants in the Himalayas and Pakistan’s Villages Glacier retreat in Canada causes Yukon river to vanish. From CBCNews: “It’s been the main source of water into Yukon’s Kluane Lake for centuries, but now the Slims River has suddenly slimmed down — to nothing. ‘What folks have noticed this spring is that it’s essentially dried up,” said Jeff Bond of the Yukon Geological Survey. ‘That’s the first time that’s happened, as far as we know, in the last 350 years.’ What’s happened is some basic glacier hydrology, Bond says — essentially, the Kaskawulsh Glacier has retreated to the point where its melt water is now going in a completely different direction, away from the Slims Valley. Instead of flowing north 19 kilometres from the glacier’s toe into Kluane Lake (and ultimately, the Bering Sea), that melt water is now draining eastward via the Kaskawulsh River towards the Pacific Ocean off the Alaska panhandle. It’s a reminder that glacier-caused change is not always glacial-paced.” Read more about the effects of glacier retreat on the Slims River here:   The world’s highest vascular plants found in Indian Himalayas. From Microbial Ecology: “Upward migration of plants to barren [just below the snowl areas is occurring worldwide due to raising ambient temperatures and glacial recession. In summer 2012, the presence of six vascular plants, growing in a single patch, was recorded at an unprecedented elevation of 6150 m.a.s.l. close to the summit of Mount Shukule II in the Western Himalayas (Ladakh, India). Whilst showing multiple signs of stress, all plants have managed to establish stable growth and persist for several years.” Learn more about the role of microbes in the process of plant upward migration here.   Local struggles in Pakistan show adaptations to glacier thinning. From Erdkunde: “Framing adaptation as a process of assemblage-building of heterogeneous human and non-human [actors], two village case studies are investigated where glacier thinning has dried up a source of irrigation water, turning cropland into desert. While in the first case case, villagers were able to construct a new and extraordinary water supply scheme with the help of external development agencies, in the second case, several approaches to utilize alternative water sources over three decades were unsuccessful. An account of the adaptation assemblages shows how a diversity of actants such as individual leaders, community, external agencies, construction materials, landslides and geomorphological features play variable and contingent roles in the success or failure of adaptation efforts, thus co-defining their outcome in complex ways.” Learn more about the adaption efforts to glacier thinning in northern Pakistan here. Spread the...

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Could Glacier Retreat Cause Seals to Wander?

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Could Glacier Retreat Cause Seals to Wander?

Spread the News:ShareThough populations of harbor seals – the captivating species seen in almost every zoo – are stable in other areas of the world, they are seeing declines in southeastern Alaska. These particular seals use icebergs calved from nearby glaciers as a place to rest and breed, but changes in ice availability are affecting these behaviors, crucial to their survival and reproduction. Two separate studies, one by the National Park Service (NPS) and one by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), have independently found that seals may be changing their distribution and behavior to match the shifting locations of ice, as glaciers retreat. Jamie Womble, leading the NPS research in Glacier Bay, is providing a new way of relating glacier ice extent and harbor seal territory, both in location and seasonality. Womble and her team aim to find the exact distribution and movements of these Alaskan harbor seals. Aerial tracking– flying above the ice and counting the seals–is a method that works effectively in the region. They also glue GPS transmitters to the seals, and track their movements on land-based monitors. These transmitters come off safely during the next summer’s molt, so they present only minimal risk to the animals. Womble and her team found that “[d]espite extensive migration and movements of seals away from Glacier Bay during the post-breeding season, there was a high degree of inter-annual site fidelity (return rate) of seals to Glacier Bay the following pupping/breeding season.” In addition to studying the distances which the seals traveled, Womble and her group also examined the patterns of seal movement in relation to the glacial ice. The team studied the ice distribution within John Hopkins Inlet, which they coordinated with aerial tracking data to examine the relationship between the ice extent and the harbor seals. John Hopkins Inlet, the main area of research for Womble, is home to Johns Hopkins Glacier and Gilman Glacier which are among the few advancing glaciers in this region. Seals were found to congregate in areas with the highest percentage of ice. “Tidewater glacier fjords in Alaska host some of the largest seasonal aggregations of harbor seals in Alaska,” Womble told GlacierHub in an interview. Many of these tidewater glaciers – glaciers that run into the sea and calve frequent icebergs – are thinning, and a few have begun retreating. In particular, rapid retreat on the east side of Glacier Bay is leading to decreased seal pupping. During this critical season when the pups are newborn, mother seals and the weaning baby seals use flat icebergs to rest. “By 2008, no seals were pupping in Muir Inlet, and fewer than 200 seals were counted in McBride Inlet near the terminus of the McBride Glacier, the only remaining tidewater glacier in the East Arm of Glacier Bay,“ the NPS team stated in a recent report. In a report, ADFG  emphasizes the importance of  studying  “…why, how, and when harbor seals use glacial habitat, and whether the rapid thinning and retreat of Alaskan glaciers associated with climate change could negatively affect harbor seals…” Their research documented similar instances of glacier thinning and retreat and they are also monitoring seal movement, as well as other topics, including seal diet, seal weight and bodily composition and disturbances by tour vessels. Though ADFG began their work in Glacier Bay, the same site as the other team, they moved their research to Tracy Arm Ford’s Terror Wilderness Area – more than 200 miles to the southeast. The ADFG team has attached transmitters such as SPOT  to track the seals. These beam data on location, heart rate and other biological indicators up to satellites. To gather data, the researchers depend on the seals surfacing to breathe or rest, since the satellites cannot receive signals that are released underwater....

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If You Can’t Handle the Heat – Retreat

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If You Can’t Handle the Heat – Retreat

Spread the News:ShareZachariæ Isstrøm, a large glacier in the northeast coast of Greenland, is in a state of accelerated retreat after it detached from an important sill. This shift has caused great instability for the glacier, according to a new study from Science Magazine. Recognizing 0.5 meters of possible sea level rise held within Zachariæ, and its acceleration expected to continue, the authors point to an increased likelihood of sea level rise coming from this area in the next 20 or 30 years. This study is noteworthy since Zachariæ is found far north, close to 79 degrees N. The Greenland glaciers which have been highlighted for their fast retreats to date are found further south.  Jeremie Mouginot from the University of California, Irvine and his coauthors looked specifically at the effects of warming ocean and air temperatures on the melting and discharge dynamics of the glacier. (More Greenland work from the UCI team can be found here.) The precise measurements of the ice discharge data were made possible by NASA, who provided funds and much of the data and equipment.  The researchers observed a 50% increase in the retreating speed since 2000. There was also a doubling of ice thinning. On the ice shelf, this process was extensive enough to be measured by satellites. Data showed Zachariæ in a stable state up until 2003 when a large piece broke off. Since that breaking point Zachariæ retreated at a steady state until 2013-14 when the retreat accelerated. It is now retreating at a rate of 125 meters per year and losing 5 gigatons of mass yearly. The increased mass loss is attributed by the authors to a combination of warming air and ocean temperatures. These changes lead to increased ice loss by way of calving, as opposed to changes in the accumulation of mass through precipitation.  Ocean temperatures play an important role in glacier retreat; the authors argue that the nearly 1 degree C increase in ocean temperatures near the glacier is largely responsible for triggering the enhanced retreat. #JeremieMouginot #ZachariaeIsstrom – Huge Greenland Glacier Crumbling Into The… https://t.co/rYbnJ92ilo #UnderTech pic.twitter.com/RWaNpgDKYQ — koplokpeople (@koplokpeople) November 14, 2015 Warming air temperatures lead to an increase in ice thinning which affects the placement of the grounding line below the surface – an important transition area where the glacier begins floating.  As the grounding line retreats there is increased surface area of the glacier exposed to the melting from below. Zachariæ began to calve so rapidly at the grounding line in 2014 that the remaining ice shelf was “95% smaller than in 2002” according to the researcher’s Landsat optical imagery data. The authors did speak of another glacier in the Northeast of Greenland that is also experiencing accelerations-Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Glacier (NG). Though the overall changes on NG were not as rapid as Zachariæ, the authors suggest that NG will become more vulnerable in the future. “Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth’s major glaciers were to start retreating,” said one of the authors, Eric Rignot. “We no longer need to wonder; for a couple of decades now, we’ve been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers. The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland.” Isstrøm, a Danish phrase that translates as ice stream, seems to take on a poetic meaning when one thinks of the drastic amount of ice now “streaming” from the glacier. As Zachariæ transitions into a tidewater glacier, it can be expected to calve more icebergs and become more vulnerable to increases in ocean temperatures. With other glaciers in this area retreating quickly Greenland will be an important region to watch in the coming decades, the authors concluded. Here is a...

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Climate Awareness Impedes Adaptation

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 3 comments

Climate Awareness Impedes Adaptation

Spread the News:ShareA lack of awareness about the threats posed by climate change in mountain communities in Tajikistan, Central Asia may endanger traditional modes of life and local economies, according to a study published recently in Climatic Change. If these communities do not begin adapting to climate change before temperatures pass the threshold, it will be too late to make a difference, the authors wrote. In discussions with local communities, the authors found that many villagers do not consider glacier loss a serious issue. Some believe that the glaciers will grow again, since they can’t differentiate between temporary snow and the permanent ice on the glacier. Others believe that God will prevent their glacier from disappearing. Researchers found that these notions impede the adaptation process, since people see glacier retreat as a threat that can be resolved by nature or a higher power, rather than through their own actions. The inability to perceive climate change as a factor that contributes to glacier loss makes these communities particularly vulnerable.  “The adequate presentation of information on climate change to all social groups and a social learning process appear to be crucial to avoid a ‘casual structure of vulnerability,’” the authors wrote. Mountain communities in Tajikistan rely on agriculture to support the continually growing population. By 2050, the population in the region is expected to double, reaching 5.093 million. More than 47% of these people live below the national poverty line – most people have never used a computer before and most women are illiterate according to the World Bank. Compared to more developed countries, Tajikistan’s ability to address climate change is limited by a lack of capital and technology to address the issue, the new study found. For people living in remote and less-developed areas, there is not enough money and power to change the current situation. Researchers found that if villagers could unite to develop a collective strategy for adaption to climate change, they may be able to improve the intellectual and general ability of local communities to better understand glacier melt and its impacts, and also to act and adapt collectively.   If communities can learn to understand the interrelationship between the environment they are living in and how heavily their lives depend on it. The authors proposed that mountain communities in Tajikistan use a scenario-based participatory learning process to help villagers better understand how climate change may affect their lives if they don’t start adapting. The scenario-based participating learning process allows scientists and researchers to develop models that assess the challenges that communities will face while also assessing their vulnerability. Many villagers live in areas that are not close to glaciers, so they may not associate glacier melting to their daily lives, but the scenario-based participating learning process is a more visualized method that allows villagers to connect climate related changes to their daily life. When the awareness has been established, people within the community can better cooperate and work towards the same goal. Communities can be taught about labor immigration for the purpose of building water reservoirs, skill training for villagers to learn about agricultural adaptation, engineering for water reservoir construction, irrigation and processing of oil seeds. By forming a strong kinship or social bonding within the community to act together, communities may still have time to improve their adaptation ability, the authors concluded.   Spread the...

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Perth Conference Highlights Glacier Retreat

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Perth Conference Highlights Glacier Retreat

Spread the News:ShareFrom 4-8 October 2015, researchers gathered to discuss and learn about the “Mountains of Our Future Earth.” This conference was held at the Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS) of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Perth, Scotland. It was organized by the CMS, together with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) and the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA), all members of the Mountain Partnership. As the organizers noted, mountain areas occupy 24% of the Earth’s land surface; they are home to 12% of the global population, and another 14% of the population live in their immediate proximity. Globally, mountain areas are vital sources of water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic use. In an urbanising world, mountain areas are key locations for tourism and recreation; some include major urban areas. However, mountains are among the most disadvantaged regions in a global perspective: they are among the regions with the highest poverty rates, and among those most vulnerable. Vulnerabilities range from volcanic and seismic events and flooding to global climate change and the loss of vegetation and soils because of inappropriate agricultural and forestry practices and extractive industries. Mountain regions are thus key contexts for sustainable global development, which is also recognized in the new Sustainable Development Goals. The vital links between mountain and lowland systems are increasingly recognized in global and regional policy debates and action, and provide the context for the conference. Glaciers will play a crucial role in climate related vulnerability in the coming decades, and several presentations at the Perth III Conference focused on the study of glaciers and their changes. Glaciers make global climate warming visible: they may serve as thermometers – in the form of ice cores that can be studied to track past climate – or as visible object of climate change: everybody can see the evident retreat of glaciers. Dirk Hoffmann demonstrated this through repeat photography of glaciers over decades as part of a transdisciplinary project of the Bolivian Mountain Institute (BMI). Interestingly, glaciers in Bolivia showed relatively small changes since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age (ending in the 19th century) until the 1980s. Since then, there has been a rapid change. Where ski competitions on Chacaltaya glacier took place in the 1970s, the ice has gone today. Other glaciers in Bolivia show big retreat over the last years, too. With the expected El Niño event in 2015/16, the impact could even be devastating as less precipitation is expected during such events – the glaciers will lack their essential nourishment. For large parts of Bolivia, glaciers symbolize global warming and climate change. Glacier data from Bolivia are in line with the global trend. As presented at the Perth III Conference, glacier decline in the first decade of the 21st century has reached a historical record, since the onset of direct observations. The glacier data that have been collected by the World Glacier Monitoring Service clearly show that glacier melt is a global phenomenon, and will continue even without further climate change. According to these data, the current rate of glacier melt is without precedence at global scale, at least for the time period observed and probably also for recorded history, as indicated also in reconstructions from written and illustrated documents. This impressive dataset of global glacier changes has been compiled over 120 years, together with National Correspondents in more than 30 countries and thanks to labour-intensive fieldwork, sometimes in harsh conditions, of thousands of Principal Investigators that measured “their” glaciers. A new study has investigated the effect of mineral dust on the surface of Djankuat glacier, Caucasus. It was found that...

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