Posts Tagged "greenland"

Photo Friday: Zackenberg Research Station

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Zackenberg Research Station

Spread the News:ShareZackenberg Ecological Research Operation (ZERO), located in northeast Greenland, is a fieldwork station for high Arctic ecosystems. It is operated by the  Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University in Denmark. This week, enjoy photos from the Zackenberg station and witness scenes in the life of field researchers in Greenland. The station is remote and small, accommodating a maximum of 24 people at a time, but conducts important research on ecosystem structure and the impacts of climate change on the region. The station collects and monitors climate data through the ClimateBasis Program. Among the many important research projects run at the station is the GlacioBasis Program, which has been monitoring the Olsen Ice Cap and tracking its mass balance changes since 2008. The team also runs the BioBasis Program, which tracks Arctic species and biodiversity across the icy terrain. Spread the...

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Using Seismic Waves to Measure Ice Melt? Sounds Good

Posted by on May 25, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Using Seismic Waves to Measure Ice Melt? Sounds Good

Spread the News:ShareA recent study in the journal Science Advances proposes a novel methodology to track melting ice sheets and the glaciers associated with them: rather than viewing the ice from above with airplanes and satellites, a team from MIT and Princeton is monitoring it from below. The new technique makes it possible to gather information about ice melt in real time by listening to the seismic activity of the Earth’s crust. Due to the continuous sound of ocean waves crashing on Greenland’s shore, there are near-constant seismic vibrations in the bedrock that can reveal a great deal of information about the overlaying ice. This method, which was originally developed to track volcanic and fault line activity, may be able to provide more  accurate data on exactly where and when melting is occurring, the authors report. How can seismic data communicate information about glaciers? The researchers predicted that the great mass of the ice weighing down on the rock below would compress the Earth’s crust and change its density—possibly enough to have a measurable effect on the seismic waves passing through it. By listening to the speed of the seismic waves moving through the ground, the team was able to determine the density of the rock and calculate the amount of ice lying above. According to the study, the speed of the seismic waves depends on the crust’s porosity, or the amount of small spaces and cracks that are not solid rock. When the crust is compressed by heavy ice masses, the area of open spaces in the rock decrease and waves travel more quickly through the material. However, when ice melts and there is less weight on the bedrock, more spaces in the crust open up and the velocity of the seismic waves is significantly slower. This newly tested method shows immense promise, and incorporating seismic data from other Greenland stations is the next step. “We think if the seismic station density were increased we would be able to observe these changes in greater spatial detail, and be able to make a map of the changes instead of averaging them over a large region,” study author Dr. Chris Harig of Princeton University explained in an email to GlacierHub. In addition to calculating the amount of ice melt, this new method may be able to pinpoint the location of the melting. While findings are preliminary, the study indicates that the seismic data from 2013 picked up differences in melting between the main Greenland ice sheet and the Jakobshavn Glacier, widely considered the fastest moving glacier in the world. “If you do look at the station pairs individually, the stations near Jakobshavn Glacier show a bit more signal in 2013 than the rest. This could be due to the fact that Jakobshavn is a place of massive changes, and still had large changes in 2013,” Harig commented in an email. This outlet glacier has shown significant melting since the 2013 data was collected—in 2015, a massive 12.4 square kilometer area of ice calved into the ocean, possibly the largest calving event in the glacier’s history. If seismic activity can pick up on the different rates of melting between Greenland’s glaciers and the main ice sheet, it may be possible to predict which glaciers are most fragile and likely to have calving events. While testing is needed at more seismic stations, Harig seems optimistic about the potential applications of the new method. “I was surprised how well the results turned out in the end. We are measuring very small changes in the seismic velocity to compare them to the ice sheet mass. So it...

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Satellites Detect Both Steady and Accelerated Ice Loss

Posted by on May 24, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Satellites Detect Both Steady and Accelerated Ice Loss

Spread the News:ShareA new study published in Geophysical Research Letters reports the findings of a pair of satellites that measure gravity to get a clearer picture of the continued ice mass loss in Greenland, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The study found accelerated ice loss in the Arctic, and steady loss in Alaska, which will have significant implications for sea level rise globally. The researchers, Christopher Harig and Frederik J. Simmons, both of Princeton University, analyzed data from the two satellites, called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), in order to not only find the current state of ice mass within glaciers and ice sheets, but the changes in mass since 2003. GRACE’s dual satellites circle the Earth together, and minute fluctuations in their orbit serve as a basis for measuring the Earth’s gravitational field. The two are separated by approximately 137 miles, and as they fluctuate with the changing gravitational pull, the distance between the two varies slightly. (The two satellites are nicknamed Tom and Jerry, a reference to the cartoon cat and mouse.) Coupling the differing distances with precise GPS locations, GRACE is able to provide a view of the Earth’s gravity with “unprecedented accuracy” as NASA says. This level of detail allows researchers to easily find even minute trends in mass changes. GRACE is more commonly used over large areas, such as ice sheets, but in this research the authors studied areas “near the [lower] limit that can be resolved by GRACE data.” After thermal expansion, mountain glaciers and ice caps are the second highest contributor to sea level rise, making accurate and efficient study of the mass loss from smaller areas critical for future sea level projections. The researchers found that the glacial ice on the north region of the Gulf of Alaska was decreasing at a faster rate than the south region. GRACE detected an unexpectedly large ice loss in 2009 which the authors attribute to a lowered albedo after the eruption of Mount Redoubt. The Canadian Archipelago as a whole has been losing ice mass steadily. Within it, the Ellesmere Island region was stable in 2003, when the data was first collected, but mass loss has been accelerating since. In 2013, the researchers found that the mass loss within the Ellesmere Island region had dramatically accelerated, but has since continued closer to average. Baffin Island, the second area studied within the Archipelago, also saw significant ice loss but not at the same rate as Ellesmere. Greenland saw “an order of a magnitude” more total volume ice loss than Baffin and Ellesmere. Partially due to its sheer size, ice loss there is significant; in the previous decade the largest land-based contributor to sea level rise has been Greenland. As ice mass loss continues in these regions due to natural variability and climate change, it will be important to have accurate and localized data to better prepare for the corresponding sea level rise.   “Worldwide, on the order of 500 million people could be directly impacted by rising sea level by the end of this century. The human impact is combined with a large financial impact as well. So regardless of where people live, I think the impacts of ice loss and sea level rise will be easily seen in the future,” co-author Christopher Harig said in an email to GlacierHub. Spread the...

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Ivory Gulls Made an Iceberg Their Home

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Ivory Gulls Made an Iceberg Their Home

Spread the News:ShareResearchers recently reported that a threatened species of Arctic seagull had made a colony in an unusual place— on an offshore iceberg. This is the first report of these gulls breeding on an iceberg. They reported in a short note published in the journal Polar Biology that ivory gulls, Pagophila eburnea, had formed a breeding colony of around 60 adults with numerous chicks and fledglings among them. The gulls, which are named for their all-white plumage, may have made their home there because it allows them to avoid predators (including the Arctic fox, wolf, and polar bear) and because it is close to an area of open water that is a rich source of food. The find represents a new place to look during counts of such birds. The iceberg was covered with gravel and debris, and after analysis, the researchers reported that the likely source was a glacier moraine in Greenland. The iceberg was located nearby the North East Water polynya in Northeast Greenland. (A polynya is an area of open water where sea ice would normally be found. These zones open up seasonally, and are rich in foods that the gulls and other predators can consume, including small fish and krill.) The distance from feeding zones to nesting areas can be up to 100 km each way, so having the iceberg near the feeding area saves energy for the parents. The colony was spotted serendipitously while the researchers were taking observations from the deck of the RV Polarstern on August 9, 2014. The scientists were looking for seabirds and marine mammals as part of a long-term study of the relationship between predator densities and environmental factors in the polar region. Ivory gulls typically breed on nunataks, which are areas of exposed rock from mountain ice and snow fields, or on remote coastal islands. It had been suspected that the gulls might breed on offshore ice islands. A few studies also document the birds breeding on gravel-covered sea ice, though these were near the shore. The iceberg that was home to the colony was 70 km offshore. The researchers state that they assumed the iceberg was grounded, rather than freefloating, based on the typical depth of East Greenland icebergs. The observation of these gulls is also interesting because they are a near-threatened species, according to the IUCN Red List. While the ivory gull was among the most frequently seen gull in the Arctic in the 1990s, it is not even among the top ten any more, according to the researchers. The estimated total number of individuals of this species in the Greenland sea has also fallen, according to observations by the authors. The global population of these gulls is now estimated at between 19,000 and 27,000, they noted. The number of gulls seen in this colony makes it an average sized colony for this species. The authors weren’t able to provide an estimate of the number of young gulls, because they blend into the gravel so well and because the authors weren’t able to observe all parts of the breeding site closely. The authors wrote, “Juveniles of different age (from chicks in downy plumage to fledglings) were observed, but not quantified because parts of the breeding site could not be sighted properly at close range and due to their excellent camouflage on the gravel.” The ivory gull does not venture far from the Arctic Ocean, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and the iceberg was located in the Greenland Sea, which is nearby. Earlier this year, an ivory gull was spotted in Duluth, Minnesota which,...

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Zaria Forman’s Quest to Capture Ice as Art Before It’s Gone

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images, Interviews | 0 comments

Zaria Forman’s Quest to Capture Ice as Art Before It’s Gone

Spread the News:ShareZaria Forman is taking pastel drawings to a whole new level by creating photo-realist drawings of areas susceptible to climate change. She believes that artists have a special responsibility to showcase the effects of our changing climate, and has dedicated her work to doing just that. Her paintings capture lighting and depth so convincingly that a viewer cannot help but feel an overwhelming connection to these faraway places. While some of her work focuses on glaciers, she also captures the beauty of Hawaii, Israel, and the Maldives–areas affected by sea-level rise. Her work can be seen in exhibits around the world, including the upcoming Pulse Fair in NYC in March and the Seattle Art Fair in August. Her next solo exhibit will be at Winston Wächter Fine Art’s Seattle location, in February and March of 2017. Forman, with inspiration from her late mother’s photography and her childhood travels, melds her personal and artistic sides mesmerizingly into her drawings. She hopes the innate beauty of the areas she captures will compel her audience to act to slow the loss she is documenting. Her work allows us to step back from the science of climate change and experience the loss, and the beauty, of these iconic and critical regions on a more human scale. GH: What are you trying to communicate with your artwork? ZF: I hope my drawings can facilitate a deeper understanding of the climate crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism in shifting landscapes. One of the many gifts my mother gave me was the ability to focus on the positive, rather than dwell in the negative. I hope my drawings serve as records of landscapes in flux, documenting the transition, and inspiring our global community to take action for the future. GH: What role does art play in the conversation about climate change? ZF: Artists play a critical role in communicating climate change, which is arguably the most important challenge we face as a global community. I have dedicated my career to translating and illuminating scientists’ warnings and statistics with an accessible medium, one that moves us in a way that statistics may not.  Neuroscience tells us that humans take action and make decisions based on emotion above all else. Studies have shown that art can impact our emotions more effectively than a scary news report. My drawings explore moments of transition, turbulence, and tranquility in the landscape, allowing viewers to emotionally connect with a place they may never have the chance to visit. I choose to convey the beauty as opposed to the devastation of threatened places. If people can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps they will be inspired to protect and preserve them.   GH: What in your life has inspired this coupling of the arts and climate? ZF: The inspiration for my drawings began in my early childhood when I traveled with my family throughout several of the world’s most remote landscapes, which became the subject of my mother’s fine art photography. I developed an appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the ever-changing sky and sea. I loved watching a far-off storm on the western desert plains; the monsoon rains of southern India; and the cold arctic light illuminating Greenland’s waters. I have very fond memories of our family trips and consider them a vital part of my upbringing and education. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to see so much of the world, and to learn first-hand about cultures so vastly different from my own. This myriad of experiences instilled in me a love and need...

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