Posts Tagged "melt"

As glaciers melt, bodies resurface

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

As glaciers melt, bodies resurface

Spread the News:ShareIn June 2012, an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter was flying over the Colony Glacier on a routine training flight when the crew noticed bits of wreckage scattered on the ice. The twisted metal, bits of cloth and other debris turned out to be all that was left of a C-124 Globemaster II troop transport that crashed in 1952, killing all 52 people on board. In June of this year, the Department of Defense said it identified the remains of 17 servicemen from the crash site. “It’s taken 60 years for the wreckage and portions of the plane to actually come out of the glacier underneath all that ice and snow,” said Gregory Berg, a forensic anthropologist for the military, in a 2012 interview. “It’s starting to erode out now.” The crash site was nothing like that of a nearly intact World War II-era fighter found in the Sahara. Because of the to the glacier’s splitting ice crevasses, much of the plane, and the plane’s remaining crew, are likely still frozen after 60 years. The location of the troop transport, which was known not long after the crash, had been lost because of the glacier’s movement and the opening and closing of those crevasses. The reappearance of a long-lost body in the ice isn’t a new thing and will likely become more common as global climate change melts more ice, revealing the frozen corpses of people thought to be missing forever. The most famous glacier find happened over two decades ago. In 1991, two German tourists were climbing the Similaun peak on a sunny afternoon in the Italian Alps near the Austrian border when they spied a body lying facedown and half-frozen in the ice. What was left of the body’s skin was hardened, light brown in color, and stretched tightly across its skeleton. The man the tourists found turned out to be more than 5,000 years old. Named Ötzi, after the Ötzal region of the Alps he was found in, the natural mummy provided a look into Copper Age Europe. He had tools, clothes and even shoes frozen along with him. Ötzi’s remarkable preservation (he’s Europe’s oldest natural mummy) was due to him being covered in snow and later ice shortly after death, shielding him from decay. Last summer, elsewhere in the Alps, a rescue helicopter pilot spotted something that shouldn’t be in the glaciers surrounding the Matterhorn: abandoned equipment and clothing wrapped around bones. Those remains turned out to be those of 27-year-old British climber Jonathan Conville, who had disappeared on the mountain in 1979. Hundreds of people have been reported missing from the area surrounding the Matterhorn and melting ice means more of them might be found. The tiny town of Peio, high up in the Italian Alps, has grown accustomed to this phenomenon. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the peaks, caves and glaciers around Peio were the scene of heavy fighting during World War I between Imperial and Italian forces. From 1915-1918, the two sides fought along the hundreds of miles of the Italian Front where more than a million soldiers died and two million more were wounded in the aptly named White War. As the Alpine glaciers melt high above Peio, rifles, equipment, bits of tattered uniforms and even letters and diaries from a hundred years ago again see the light of day. Though many of these relics are displayed in the town’s war museum, many more are looted by treasure hunters hoping to resell them on the black market. The frozen, mummified bodies of the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers have...

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Scientists find yet another negative impact of glacial melt: ocean acidification

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Scientists find yet another negative impact of glacial melt: ocean acidification

Spread the News:ShareResearchers have recently uncovered previously unknown negative environmental impact of accelerated glacial melt. If reductions in freshwater availability, landslides, outburst floods and sea level rise were not bad enough, ocean acidification can be added to the list. Ocean acidification is a well-known process, though it has not previously been linked to glaciers. Scientists have recognixed that the chemistry of the world’s oceans has been changing as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. About one-third of the carbon dioxide that humans release each year dissolves in the oceans, making them more acid, much as dissolving carbon dioxide in tapwater makes seltzer, its characteristic tartness due to its acidity. This acidification reduces the concentration of carbonate ions that are essential to the formation of the mineral shells of marine organisms, whether large molluscs, corals, or microscopic plants such as plankton. If the saturation level of these ions in seawater falls too low, the shells begin to dissolve. Jeremy Mathis and Wiley Evans, experts in chemical oceanography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Ocean Acidification Research Center, recently published a paper that examines the chemistry of fresh-water plumes from glaciers that directly discharge into Prince William Sound in Alaska. The glacial meltwater accumulates in the sound during the summer, when melting is most pronounced. That freshwater eventually ends up in the Gulf of Alaska, when the tides pick up at the end of the summer. “We are seeing that the glacial plume inside and moving out into the Gulf of Alaska is far more extensive than we thought it was going to be,” said Mathis, “one of our conclusions is that the glaciers are having quite an extensive impact on the water chemistry of Prince William Sound.” They found reduced concentrations of carbonate ions more than 10 miles offshore, as well as other chemical changes that can harm shells. Building on this research, they are leading a project that will send three remotely controlled vessels into Prince William Sound to collect more data on the water chemistry. In this round of study, the additional data will help identify the processes that are occurring due to glacial run-off, and help pinpoint which species are most vulnerable in the Sound. They are also exploring the interactions between the glacier meltwater and the waters of the open seas; these may combine to exacerbate the ocean acidification. As Jeremy Mathis, a lead oceanographer in the study explains, “if the saturation state becomes too low, the waters can become corrosive to shell building organisms.” This has dire implications not only for the organisms themselves, but for the foodwebs within marine ecosystems—and for the humans who depend on healthy ecosystems for fishing. The project, funded partly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is exploring glacially-fed Alaskan waters this summer. It includes two yellow surfboard-like Carbon wave gliders that move across the surface of the water. The Slocum Glider is a yellow torpedo-like sensor that dives underwater to depths of 600 feet capturing profiles of the ocean. The researchers consider this technology a “revolution,” making study the oceans far less expensive and data more available and extensive. In addition, the team will work with tour companies and launch with instruments from those ships. This strategy not only is cost-effective, but also gives the researchers the opportunity to share with the public the environmental issues they are studying. There is a lot at stake in the Prince William Sound and outlying Gulf of Alaska. While their work is valuable in understanding how glacier loss will affect aquatic ecosystems around the world, the loss of marine organisms is a big...

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The inevitable doom of Glacier Rush

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

The inevitable doom of Glacier Rush

Spread the News:ShareI lost track of how many narwhals I killed. Each time it was the same; a block of ice fell into the ocean, I thought I had given enough time for the narwhal to react and get out of its way but again, the ice hit it, its eyes turned into little x’s and the narwhal sank to the bottom of the ocean. I wasn’t getting real narwhals killed, thankfully, but little cartoon versions of them in Glacier Rush, the new free game for iPhone and Android. The game itself is simple enough; you drag your finger across the screen to guide a cartoon narwhal in between sinking blocks of ice (Ok, so it’s not the most scientifically minded time-waster), trying to eat as many fish as you can before your eventual demise. The game shares more than a few similarities to the ultra-simple Flappy Bird, a game where your only goal is to fly a bird through as many pipes as you can. In both games, the premise and controls are simple, but life is short and the need to keep playing often overtakes better judgment. Much like other mobile games like “Temple Run” or “Lane Splitter“, no matter how well you perform or how long your character lives, they will inevitably succumb to the game. After a while you start to feel sorry for the narwhals, especially the ones that only live long enough to eat a handful of fish. Normally, I can get to 18, but never more than 33, my top score. A round of Glacier Rush never last more than a few seconds, but these addictive single-premise games quickly waste one minute, then five, then 10. My first session with Glacier Rush ended after about 20 minutes when I became determined not to quit until my narwhal ate 25 fish. I went through the usual distinct stages of playing: adjustment, zen state, desperation, fugue state, back to zen, and then, once I had my 25 fish, mastery. The game’s makers probably didn’t intend any level of interpretation of Glacier Rush beyond an amusing distraction. The falling ice, the cute animal in danger, the North Atlantic setting all seem to point to something a little darker: the inevitability of climate change. No matter how long you play or what path through the icebergs you manage to steer the narwhal, the ice will get you. Narwals are a “near-threatened” species according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Falling ice is less of a danger to them than being hunted by humans, though that risk greatly increases as the sea ice breaks apart more and more. That might be reading too much into it, but according to game programmer Jody McAdams, the average narwhal lifespan is 16 seconds. The game probably isn’t an elaborate commentary on the collateral damage caused by global climate change, but after a few too many rounds of playing Glacier Rush, it’s easy to think how one way or another, ice will get us in the end.       Spread the...

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