Posts Tagged "tibet"

Toxic Minerals in Tibetan Glacier Meltwater

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 1 comment

Toxic Minerals in Tibetan Glacier Meltwater

Spread the News:ShareHigher concentrations of toxic minerals have recently been found in glacial meltwater in the Tibetan Plateau region and are raising health concerns. Meltwater has eroded rock which is newly exposed due to glacier retreat, releasing hazardous amounts of iron, lead and other minerals into streams and rivers. A recent paper in the Journal of Hydrology authored by Xiangying Li et al. presents evidence recorded in 2013 of tainted meltwater from Dongkemadi Glacier in central Tibet. According to Voa News, climate research indicates that the Tibetan Plateau has been warming since the 1980s. The mass of ice in Tibet is the largest anywhere on Earth outside of the polar regions, and the plateau is increasing in temperature four times faster than the rest of the planet. Some of the meltwater, which has increased due to warming temperatures, deposits into the Yangtze, Mekong, Yellow and Indus rivers. Tibetan glaciers are estimated to hold 14.5% of the world’s glacier mass. It’s also estimated that 247 square kilometers of glaciers disappear annually, with a total of 18% of glaciers having disappeared since the 1950s. The Dongkemadi Glacier, which the researchers analyzed, is located in central Tibet and has an area of 15.89 km² and a maximum elevation of 5,275 meters. To reach their findings, researchers took samples from the meltwater of the Dongkemadi Glacier and found bicarbonate and calcium were dominant ions, followed by magnesium, sodium and sulfate. Other minerals also included  iron, strontium, boron, aluminum, barium and lithium. Most of these elements are transported while they are in the dissolved phase, while carbonates may be absorbed by solids and remain highly mobile. Other chemicals were found to be at a level deemed insignificant, below the threshold of 1 μg/l (micrograms per liter).  Katherine Alfredo, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Water Center, who spoke with GlacierHub about the research, said, “The results of the article, that glacial retreat can expose rock and lead to new weathering and contamination, are totally plausible. The methods of sampling and analysis are sound.” Compared to meltwater from the Haut Glacier d’Arolla in Switzerland, which the researchers used as a benchmark for average glacial meltwater hydrochemistry, concentrations of sodium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, bicarbonate, lithium, strontium and barium were higher in the Tibetan Plateau. This discrepancy may be due to a higher abundance of carbonates like calcite, which more heavily influences the meltwater’s chemistry in the Tibetan Plateau than compared to the Haut Glacier d’Arolla. This suggests that the Tibetan Plateau has higher chemical weathering than other glacial water networks, with a higher amount of chemicals potentially discharged into the water system in Tibet.  The high concentrations of metals such as iron, lead, nickel, chromium, arsenic, copper and aluminum found in the meltwater can have significant negative impacts on human health and the environment. For example, lead exposure is known to cause impaired physical and mental developments, nickel exposure can cause kidney failure or birth defects, and aluminum exposure can increase chances of Alzheimer’s disease. The highest iron concentrations found by the researchers exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines, while concentrations of aluminium, zinc and lead are currently close to the guideline values.  Monitoring of the Tibetan Plateau’s glacier meltwater for hazardous concentrations of minerals is important to public health and the environment. However, data is limited because long-term observance of hydrochemistry can be costly and isn’t typically included in glacial monitoring programs. As climate change continues to melt the glaciers and increase rock exposure, more chemicals will be deposited into the water system in Tibet, posing risks to health. Seeing how significant the effects have already been, it is important to continue monitoring glaciers, even if...

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Photo Friday: Mount Kailash

Posted by on Jan 13, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Mount Kailash

Spread the News:Share Sometimes called “the third pole,” the Tibetan Plateau is a remote and mysterious place with numerous mountains and glaciers. Among the region’s many mountains, the most sacred is Mount Kailash, a holy place for four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The Tibetan people believe that Gang Rinpoche (Kailash’s Tibetan name) is their spiritual home. Worshiping the mountain and its surrounding lakes is an integral part of their culture. Every year, people travel from around the world on challenging pilgrimage treks to the mountain and its holy sites. Many of them carry out circumambulations, walking around the entire mountain. Mount Kailash and surrounding peaks are home to many glaciers, including cirques and hanging glaciers, that feed the rivers and lakes of this sacred area. Four rivers, the Indus, Sutlej, Karnali, and Brahmaputra, source within 50 miles of Mount Kailash. A recent book, “The Way to the Sacred Land,” was jointly published by the Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB) in Yunnan, China and the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal. It discusses the traditional cultures and local species of the Kailash sacred landscape. The book emphasizes the importance of the region for providing herbs and other plants that are important elements in traditional medicine. See images from the book below, along with a bonus image from another source. And you can read more about the traditional culture and its relation to landscape and local species.                     Spread the...

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China’s Promotion of Everest Tourism

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Sports, Tourism | 0 comments

China’s Promotion of Everest Tourism

Spread the News:ShareMount Everest is the highest peak in the world, sitting at 29,029 feet, roughly 5.5 miles above sea level. Though the south side of Everest is located in Nepal, about 100 miles from Kathmandu, the north side of Everest lies within the Tibet Autonomous Region and is governed by China. Earlier this year, China finished construction on a paved road up to Everest’s north side base camp, bordering on a 14,000 foot elevation gain. This was the first step in a larger commercialization goal for the Chinese in Tibet. China has proposed commercializing the north side of Everest by 2019 in order to make the mountain more accessible, according to China Daily, China’s state-run English-language news site. With this move, China may further divide the Everest region, already struggling from political tensions and significant urbanization. China’s success in this venture will rest on the incorporation of approved standards of environmental, cultural and mountaineering practice. Traditionally, Nepal has been the preferred route to Mt. Everest because of its political stability, slightly warmer climate, less severe elements and helicopter rescue capabilities, as well as government policies that offer access to the site. However, recent issues with overcrowding and growing litter on Everest’s south side has provided China with new opportunities to become more competitive in the mountaineering market, as pointed out by Tsechu Dolma, a Nepali and frequent contributor to GlacierHub. With this recent development, China hopes to bolster the local tourism and mountaineering industry in Tibet, which China claims would have positive impacts on local economies and accessibility. This includes plans for a 84,320 square meter mountaineering center in Gangkar worth $14.7 million (100 million yuan) that would contain hotels, restaurants, a mountaineering museum, a search-and-rescue base and other services. “These jobs should and would go to locals,” Jamie McGuinness, owner of  the small private trekking firm Project Himalaya, pointed out to GlacierHub, referring to the ethnic Tibetan population of the region. “With the approximate 5,000 meter altitude, other ethnic groups cannot handle living there. Initially, it could be that some of the locals would lose some business briefly; however, over time more income would be generated for everyone.” Increasing search-and-rescue capabilities would also help to reduce risks notorious to the mountain. Summiting attempts cater to a very small portion of the population capable of extreme athleticism. Despite climbers’ skill, Everest attempts still pose a great risk to all involved; in the case of Nepal, the local Sherpas  face higher risks due to increased exposure and the pressures associated with route preparation. Having an established mountaineering center could prove beneficial to tourists, and perhaps to guides as well, if the north side of Everest becomes the more preferred route for summiting attempts. Climbing risks can be reduced by having well-funded search-and-rescue teams. This might help reduce the risk of tragedies like the one in 2014 when an ice avalanche from the Khumbu glacier in Nepal claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas. Having spent the last 25 years trekking through the Himalayas, McGuinness says, “Nepal is lucky that so many expeditions still climb from the obviously more dangerous icefall route, the price of which is roll-of-the-dice deaths. Climbing Everest from the north is significantly less dangerous, and the day of reckoning is coming within the next few years.” The switch needs to happen, McGuinness added, but whether Sherpas and guides climb from the north or from the south, they will still get paid. As climates continue to change, increased temperatures experienced in Nepal could expand dangers posed to climbers and the Sherpa guides. The Khumbu Glacier regularly releases large,  deadly ice chunks, which fall along climbing routes. The 2014 ice avalanche...

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Twin Glacier Avalanches Stun Tibet and Baffle Glaciologists

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Twin Glacier Avalanches Stun Tibet and Baffle Glaciologists

Spread the News:ShareEarly on July 17, 2016, the Aru Range of Tibet experienced a massive, unexpected glacier avalanche that propelled ice and rock down into the surrounding valley. The glacier collapse of roughly 60-70 million cubic meters killed nine herders and hundreds of animals within 40 square kilometers. Controversy remains among glaciologists about what caused the avalanche in July. According to the record, in the months prior to the avalanche, temperatures in western Tibet, west of the Aru Co Lake, had been normal, with an ordinary amount of rainfall. Equally perplexing was the fact that the part of the glacier that collapsed sat on fairly flat terrain. There has only been one other region, Kolka/Karmadon in the Russian Caucasus, where similar events have occurred, according to a publication by the scientific commission GAPHAZ. In the article by GAPHAZ, researchers from the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) and the International Permafrost Association (IPA) report that the last Kolka/Karmadon event occurred on September 20, 2002 and “led to a rock and ice avalanche of 120 million cubic meters in volume, killing more than 100 people.” Whats even stranger about the Tibet avalanche is that on September 20, only two months after the first avalanche, a second massive glacier avalanche occurred just 4.8 kilometers to the south of the first collapse. According to Wanqin Guo, an associate professor at CAREERI (Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research) in China and an expert in avalanches, the glacier slide totaled an area of 6.4 square kilometers. The Tibetan Armed Police Force conducted the rescue for the second avalanche, but the casualty count remains unknown. Guo talked to GlacierHub about what he believes caused the rare glacier avalanches in the region, explaining: “As the remote sensing shows, the avalanche that happened in July was mainly caused by glacier surges. The glacier had been moving slowly since 2013. It significantly accelerated moving in May 2016.” The second avalanche that happened in September was also suspected to be caused by a surge from the same glacier. “Because the first avalanche generated a concussion wave (a shock wave or type of propagating disturbance), it stimulated the southern glacier,” Guo explained. “Though it is hard to predict avalanches, there were clues detected by scientists and warnings.” But, unfortunately, says Guo, the warnings for the glacier collapse came too late, only several hours before the second avalanche struck the region. “This is very unusual,” added Jeffrey Kargel, a senior associate research scientist and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, who spoke to GlacierHub about the twin avalanches. “The cause is still not known,” he said. To date, there are multiple opposing viewpoints about the source of the avalanches among scholars, causing controversy within the scientific community. Guo, for example, believes the two massive avalanches are linked to climate change. “No matter what kind of glacier surges happen, there is always the effect of the meltwater inside of or at the bed of the glaciers,” Guo told GlacierHub. “Climate change caused the melt of the Tibet glacier, consequently causing more melt water to smooth the glacier. This meant the glacier was able to surge further at a higher speed. Without climate change, the glacier surges could happen but would not cause such massive avalanches.” One speculation is that a geothermal anomaly is involved. But researchers studying the avalanches don’t see eye to eye. Kargel disagrees with Guo’s assessment: “If it is correct, it may explain why two neighboring glaciers experienced the same thing, but it would also make it less likely that this will happen elsewhere any time soon,” he explained to GlacierHub. Another possibility,...

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Roundup: Blue Lakes in Antarctica, Yak Dung and River Gauges in Asia

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: Blue Lakes in Antarctica, Yak Dung and River Gauges in Asia

Spread the News:ShareThis Week’s Roundup: Blue lakes on an East Antarctic glacier are a troubling sign, scientists say From Yahoo News: “British researchers have discovered a troubling trend in East Antarctica: As air temperatures become warmer each summer, more and deeper lakes are showing up atop Langhovde Glacier. Their study, published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to monitor the meltwater pools for an extended period of time in that part of the icy continent.” Click here to learn more about this troubling trend. Yak dung is helping melt Tibetan glaciers From Forbes: “Scientists had long assumed that India and China—two of the world’s leading sources of black carbon pollution—were responsible for what fell on the glaciers in Tibet and the Himalayas[….] Instead, he found that a lot of the black carbon is local. While power plants in China and fires in India do contribute black carbon, in the remote interior of the Tibetan Plateau it appears to come mostly from burning yak dung and other immediate sources.” Click here to read more about the small but mighty power of yak dung.   Pakistan expands glacier monitoring in effort to cut disaster risk From Thomson Reuters Foundation News: “Pakistan will invest $8.5 million to expand a network of glacier monitoring stations tracking the pace of glacial melt in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, in an effort to strengthen early warning systems and reduce the impact of flooding in the South Asian country.” Click here to learn more about Pakistan’s new glacial monitoring research program. Spread the...

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