Posts Tagged "glacier retreat"

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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Emerging Storms: Glacier Dust and Climate Change

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Emerging Storms: Glacier Dust and Climate Change

Spread the News:ShareDust storms are most often associated with hot deserts. However, there are 5 million square kilometres of cold arid land globally where significant dust storms have been reported. The combination of sparse vegetation and strong winds make some humid cold climate areas important dust sources. These can be found in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Iceland in the northern hemisphere, and Patagonia, Antarctica and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere. The relationship between glaciers and dust is complex. Glacier retreat produces dust, which if mobilised can fall on glaciers, increasing heat absorption, promoting further retreat. Or, it can create an armour on the exposed area in front of the glacier, reducing dust emissions. Current research is looking to develop a more nuanced understanding of the opposed effects of this glacier dust. It may be that one of them is the predominant one in most areas, or that they are in relatively balance, or that each one is the major force, but only in specific regions. In Southern Iceland, dust sourced from extensive sand plains can travel over 200 km to the capital city, Reykjavik. This leads to air pollution, causes travel disruptions and can impact human health. Glacially derived dust that is transported to the ocean can provide soluble iron, such as in the Gulf of Alaska, which potentially boosts productivity of marine ecosystems. If the Antarctic ice-sheet shrinks to become land terminating, the potential dust load available would be c.300 Mt/yt – equivalent to the total contemporary dust emissions from Asia. However, the conditions which produce dust storms in cold climate and high latitude environments, and the subsequent impacts, have not been fully assessed. Monitoring dust storms is a challenge. They are not always active, and can cover several hundred kilometres. Satellite remote sensing has revealed the distances that these dust storms can travel, but capturing events in this way is hindered by cloud cover. It is also difficult to measure how much dust is being transported and deposited. Taking direct measurements in the field allows for direct measurements to be made, including total dust concentrations and the particle sizes. These stations are spatially sparse, and normally only in operation for a few months of the year. More permanent stations require human intervention to collect samples from the traps, which could be days or weeks apart. Constant monitoring can be achieved for a period of time during a field campaign, where researchers hope for good amounts of dust movement. In addition, increased snow and ice cover, together with darkness during the winter months means that research focus is placed predominantly during the summer months, despite dust storms taking place throughout the year. To address the scarcity of existing data, the High Latitude and Cold Climate Dust Network (HLCCD)  has formed. Administered from Loughborough University in the UK, it brings together collaborators from the UK, Iceland, USA, Canada and Argentina to tackle problems associated with dust storms. It aims to collate existing data, and to highlight areas where further work is required. The network has started by producing a bibliographic map, highlighting all the existing dust research in cold environments and the high latitudes. The next step is to map potential dust sources, determined by geomorphological and climatic variables. This will enable researchers to better understand what is required to produce an active dust source and how dust sources could change in the future. Changes could be caused by retreating glaciers, or a change in land use. This will allow an assessment on how air quality and marine ecosystems will be affected in the future. The network is still...

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PhotoFriday: When I am Laid in Earth

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

PhotoFriday: When I am Laid in Earth

Spread the News:ShareThe Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya is one of the most surveyed tropical glaciers on Earth, and has been monitored and mapped regularly since 1934. In 2010, scientists found that the Lewis had shrunk by 23 percent in just the previous six years. The New York Times reports, “Our glaciers, we’re told, are disappearing freakishly fast, but fast for a glacier can still be too slow for the human imagination to seize on.” How do we document this change, and raise awareness of glacial retreat? Award-winning photographer Simon Norfolk answered this question through photography.  His series, When I am Laid in Earth was developed in collaboration with Project Pressure, a nonprofit organization that aims “to photograph and publish the world’s vanishing and receding glaciers, and to document first hand the environmental impact of climate change.” Norfolk’s photo series relied on historical maps and GPS data to mark the contours of the glacier’s retreat and, in the middle of the night, light those lines on fire. Glacier line in 1934. Credit: Simon Norfolk, Project Pressure Contours from a 1963 map, revised in 2010. Credit: Project Pressure Credit: Simon Norfolk, Project Pressure Fire lines the ice contours in 1963 and 2013 to illustrate glacier retreat. Credit: Simon Norfolk, Project Pressure When I am Laid in Earth was recently featured at the French photography festival, Les Recontres d’Arles. To read more about the works featured in this series, please download the associated newsletter, which details both the series and the Project Pressure initiative. Spread the...

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Roundup: Fish in Patagonia, Film in Kashmir & Glacial Georgia

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, News, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Roundup: Fish in Patagonia, Film in Kashmir & Glacial Georgia

Spread the News:ShareOne Fish, Two Fish: Black Southern Cod maintain a more diverse diet when near glacier meltwater areas “The black southern cod, Patagonotothen tessellata, is the most important notothenioid fish species in terms of abundance in southern Chilean Patagonia. However, studies on its trophic ecology are scarce. [This study assessed] the spatial variation in the diet of P. tessellata between two localities, one with oceanic influence (Staples Strait) and another with continental influence (Puerto Bories)… The black southern cod presents spatial differences in diet composition among contrasting environmental localities… The results provide evidence of two dietary patterns depending on the type of environment in which they are distributed, highlighting the potential role of the environmental variables on the availability and abundance of potential prey and in structuring diet.” More here. Glaciers in the Spotlight: Salman Khan films dramatic scene at Thajwas glacier, Kashmir “No doubt Salman Khan’s films are incredible exciting and dramatic, but his forthcoming release ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ has even gotten better… ‘The Bajrangi Bhaijaan climax was shot at the base of the Thajwas glacier outside Sonamarg. Located at 10,000 feet above sea level… the 300 strong technical crew had to trek for an hour through snow every morning to reach the location. Added to this was were the 7000 extras that we had on set every day. Transporting them in hundreds of buses and then embarking on the hour-long trek was a huge logistical challenge for the production. To add to their woes was the sub zero temperatures and hail storms that would interrupt the shoot,’ said Kabir Khan who has previously worked with Salman in ‘Ek Tha Tiger.’” Read more here.   Glacial Melt in Georgia, Communities Threatened by Avalanche “Considering its size, Georgia has a large number of glaciers. In the mountains of Georgia, there are about 786 registered glaciers, with a total area of about 550 km. About 82.5 % are in the upper courses of the Kodori, Inguri, Rioni, and Tereck rivers. For the past 150 years, significant glacier retreat (0.8–1.7 km) and shrinking of their area by 16 % has been observed. Since the middle of the 1940s, the glaciological situation has been characterized by a sharp reduction in the glacial area, but with the simultaneous increase in their number as glaciers disintegrated into separate smaller ones, although at the same time separate movements have also taken place. Avalanches are common in Georgia. Nearly 340 inhabited places are under the threat of avalanche attacks. About 31 % of the territory of Georgia is subject to avalanches (18 % in eastern and 13 % in western Georgia).” More here. Spread the...

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Glacier Retreat Threatens Insect with Extinction

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Glacier Retreat Threatens Insect with Extinction

Spread the News:ShareAs glaciers retreat, a species of glacier-dependent stonefly faces extinction. In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for Zapada glacier, a western glacier stonefly only found in alpine streams of Glacier National Park, Montana, to be listed as endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This species – one of more than 3500 species of stonefly –  is highly restricted to cold, glacial meltwater with limited dispersal ability. Now, in an effort to save this endangered stonefly, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address the urgency of protecting this stonefly. The insect could potentially be taken to other clean cold streams outside its established range, perhaps further north or at higher elevation where it might survive – but time is running out. Species evolve to survive in specific temperature ranges; however, when the environmental conditions have exceeded the range, species are unable to adapt to new conditions immediately. Climate change has put many species in danger, but this is the first time that an insect species has been threatened with extinction by glacier retreat. “Protection can’t come soon enough for this stonefly,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Glacier National Park will have no glaciers in 15 years if we don’t take action to curb climate change.” Stoneflies are a particularly ancient order of insects that spend most of their lives in water. They are considered the most sensitive indicators of water quality in streams as they require fresh, clean water and don’t tolerate pollution. The insects have a one to two-year life cycle starting in the nymph stage in fresh meltwater. They usually emerge from the water in late spring when the stream is uncovered by melting snow. Z. glacier has a narrow temperature preference around 3.3 degrees Celsius. It is this narrow temperature preference that makes this insect especially susceptible to climate change. Between 1960 to 2012, the average summer temperature in Glacier National Park has risen by approximately 1 degree Celsius. Additionally, since 1850, 125 of the 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park have melted away while the remaining 25 are predicted to disappear by 2030. The loss of glaciers as well as restricted suitable environmental conditions and limited dispersal ability of the stonefly threaten the species’ ability to survive. Few studies have investigated the impacts of climate change on alpine species distributions. To compensate for this knowledge gap, J. Joseph Giersch from US Geological Survey and other researchers looked at the current status and distribution of Z. glacier. Their results were published in Freshwater Science. Giersch et al. sampled 6 alpine streams, where Z. glacier was historically known to live, to examine the relationship between species occurrence and environmental variations of temperature and glacial extent. In order to identify the current geographic distribution and distinguish Z. glacier from the other 6 Zapada species in Glacier National Park, the researchers used morphological characteristics, the outward appearance of adults and the DNA of nymphs. Giersch et al. identified 28 suitable alpine locations in Glacier National Park as potential habitats for Z. glacier. From this study, Z. glacier was only found in 1 of the 6 historically occupied streams – the outlet of Upper Grinnell Lake. The results suggest increased temperature and glacier retreat have already caused local extinction of Z. glacier from several historical locations. The stonefly was also detected in 2 new high-elevation locations in Glacier National Park. Therefore, only 3 out of the 28 potential habitats have Z. glacier. The results indicate that the historical distribution of...

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