Posts Tagged "glacier retreat"

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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Glacier Retreat Brings New Islands

Posted by on Apr 21, 2015 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, News, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Glacier Retreat Brings New Islands

Spread the News:ShareIn some parts of the world, new islands are forming due to glacier retreat. Glaciers, dynamically responding to the change in temperature and precipitation, reveal the big picture of climate variability and change. During the Little Ice Age (LIA) with cooler temperatures, glaciers around the world grew substantially, from approximately 1350 to 1850. It was then followed by glacier retreat until 1940 as the globe warmed up. Since 1980, glacier recession has become unprecedentedly rapid, in line with significant global warming. “Glaciers are like a visual checking account of the status of the cold part of the ecosystem”, said Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist. The substantial melting, particularly in Greenland and Antarctica where vast glacial ice concentrates, contributes to major sea level rise globally. While small island countries are worried about being submerged by the overwhelming sea level rise, new islands have emerged near Antarctic Peninsula and Greenland. Mauri Pelto, glaciologist and professor of environmental science at Nichols College, discussed the island formation processes in his blog posts on American Geophysical Union Blogosphere. One of the island formations occurred in Leroux Bay on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula in Graham Land. From 1950 to 2000, the air temperature in the northern Antarctic Peninsula rose by 2.5ºC. As a result, 87% glaciers and ice shelves on the Peninsula were lost in the last two decades. The widespread loss of mass from ice shelves in Antarctica is mainly via basal melting. The spectacular collapse of ice-sheets and glaciers has enabled scientists to examine sediments that had accumulated beneath the floating ice shelves. Retreat from 1990 to 2015 averages 2.1 kilometers. By 2001, the glacier front had already retreated significantly and the new island had detached from the mainland, shown by the yellow arrow on the Google Earth image. Steenstrup Glacier is located in Northwest Greenland. It has retreated 10km over the past 60 years. Kjer Glacier is immediately to the south of Steenstrup. The area between Steenstrup Glacier and Kjer Glacier is Red Head. Steenstrup Glacier’s northern boundary is near Cape Seddon. Steenstrup Glacier experienced rapid thinning of up to nearly 100m per year since 2000, with a 20% acceleration rate. The glacier could still reach Red Head in 1999, though the connection was less than 2km wide. By 2013, the connection to Red Head had been completely lost, making it an independent island. The 2012 Google Earth image indicates the narrow connection between the glacier and Cape Sneddon at that time and the unique pattern of deep fractures in the glacier. It is clear that the end of Cape Sneddon will very likely to be part of an island in future summers. The connection to the island at the south end of Kjer Glacier has become much narrower since 1999 and will probably follow the route of Red Head and Cape Sneddon. Professor Mauri Pelto examined in his posts new island generation from the retreat of Leroux Bay Glacier and Steenstrup Glacier in great detail. The climate change induced glacier melting is creating the seesaw of potentially losing and gaining new islands at the same time. Spread the...

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