The 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.
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.
Before and after: Glacier dynamics and the collapse of ice shelves in Antartica
“Following the disintegration of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, in 2002, regular surveillance of its ∼20 tributary glaciers has revealed a response which is varied and complex in both space and time. The major outlets have accelerated and thinned, smaller glaciers have shown little or no change, and glaciers flowing into the remnant Scar Inlet Ice Shelf have responded with delay… Through this study, we seek to improve confidence in our numerical models and their ability to capture the complex mechanical coupling between floating ice shelves and grounded ice.”
“Researchers and citizens have known for some time that Turkey’s glaciers are shrinking. Now scientists have calculated the losses and found that more than half of the ice cover in this mountainous country has vanished since the 1970s. A team of researchers from Ege University (Turkey) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed four decades of Landsat satellite data to document this steady decline. The team, led by Dogukan Dogu Yavasli (Ege), published their results in June 2015 in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.”
“The De Filippi expedition reached Bombay in August 1913, and, during the next 12 months, carried out extensive explorations of Western Himalaya, Karakorum, and Chinese Turkestan. There are several reasons for remembering the De Filippi expedition to Central Asia: (1) a real interest in a past and present neuralgic area comprising several states, in particular Pakistan, China, and India, (2) the renewed attention in the subject of exploration and Italy’s special contribution in this field, (3) the need—now finally acknowledged—to protect and make appropriate use of our scientific heritage, and (4) an interest in new forms of tourism… One hundred years after the expedition, we focus the attention on the scientific results obtained by persons that we do not hesitate to define as extraordinary, but now partly forgotten.”
Every city has its slang. In Seattle, Washington, and throughout the Puget Sound region, the phrase “the mountain is out” is part of the everyday weather lexicon. Seattleites refer to “the mountain” and no one doubts which mountain is being discussed. Towering 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S and can be seen from far and wide.
There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier. According to the US National Park Service, “the Emmons Glacier has the largest area (4.3 square miles) and the Carbon Glacier has the lowest terminus altitude (3,600 feet) of all glaciers in the contiguous 48 states.”
“Is the mountain out?” is another way to say, “is Rainier visible?” or simply “is it sunny?” Especially in Seattle, where the weather is notoriously overcast and grey, clear skies reveal a beautiful mountain-scape.
Using photos from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Sameer Halai created a time-lapse video that captured the view from Seattle’s Kerry Park at 3 p.m. daily. He found that the mountain was “out” 83 times during 2012, roughly once every 4 to 5 days.
One 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.”
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.’”
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).”
Unseasonable heat in Alaska combined with winds and low humidity have triggered major wildfire outbreaks in the Northern state. According to a status report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, as of Wednesday, June 24, there were 278 active wildland fires state-wide. The Healy Lake Fires grew to 10,000 acres earlier this month, doubling in less than 24 hours. The Stetson Creek Fire started when lightning struck on the Kenai Peninsula. The fire had consumed about 400 acres last week.
This May was the hottest May on record in Alaska, according to data that goes back 91 years. The immediate cause of the high temperatures can be attributed to the development of an El Niño event in the eastern Pacific, which can trigger extreme climate events around the world. On a longer timescale, Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the national average over the last 50 years, the US Environmental Protection Agency found.
“The number of large wildfires (larger than 1,000 acres) suddenly increased in the 1990s, and the 2000s saw nearly twice as many large wildfires as the 1950s and 60s,” according to Climate Central. This increase has been concurrent to rising temperatures. The U.S. National Climate Assessment reports that the area impacted by wildfires in Alaska will double by 2050, and triple by 2100 if emissions continue at present rates and warming continues.
The heat means trouble for Alaska’s glaciers, too. A new study from researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks found that from 1994 to 2013, Alaskan glaciers have lost 75 gigatons (or 75 billion metric tons) of ice per year. That’s equivalent to half the total ice loss of Antarctica.
To report a wildfire in Alaska call 1-800-237-3633
Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“QUE GANEN LOS GLACIARES,” or “VICTORY TO THE GLACIERS” is not a slogan you’d expect to see associated with South America’s Copa America, which kicked off last Thursday in Santiago, Chile. As Chilean fútbol fervor builds, Greenpeace Chile has launched its own soccer campaign in support of its Glacier Republic.
In March 2014, Greenpeace declared the Republic an independent, sovereign state with its own declaration of independence, embassies abroad, and approximately 150,000 “official citizens.” Covering roughly 23,000 square kilometers of the Andes and including over 80% of South America’s glacial area, the new country formed through a loophole in the Chilean legal system; the Chilean constitution does not specifically recognize the glaciers as part of the nation’s sovereignty and the ownership of the glaciers is thus undefined. Furthermore, despite the critical importance of glaciers as a source for freshwater, they are not mentioned in the Chilean Water Code.
Now, with Chile’s attention focused on the Copa America, the Greenpeace movement continues. “La selección Glaciar” is the Republic’s national team affiliated with the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA). ConIFA is a global nonprofit organization and football federation that supports all teams outside of FIFA including micro-nations and unrecognized states.
The Greenpeace Glacier team “competes” in metaphorical matches every Wednesday during meetings of Chile’s Environmental Commission of the Deputy Chamber. Since the first meeting last week, policymakers have been debating the country’s glacier laws: to protect some of Chile’s glaciers, as the existing proposal offers, or to designate all of the country’s glaciers as untouchable, as the Glacier Republic demands.
Matías Asún, director of Greenpeace Chile, stated: “On this occasion, we liken our work to a soccer game and invite all people to side with us and pressure the deputies to vote in favor of the glacier laws that Greenpeace put forth.” Greenpeace Chile encourages supporters to “become a fan” of their “team” and “demand that the deputies play clean with the glaciers.” They list government officials who “play” (i.e. vote) against the glaciers, those who play for the glaciers, and those who are still undecided.
The first “game” took place last Wednesday, as the Commission met with the intention of voting on amendments to the existing glacier law proposal. Meanwhile, Greenpeace supporters positioned themselves in Plaza Italia, a focal point for celebration, demonstration, and protest in Santiago. Conversation was heated as Deputy Fernando Meza, the president of the Commission, accused Greenpeace of ecoterrorism. Greenpeace called a “foul” to this claim, and Asún argued that the Commission had dramatically exaggerated the reality of Greenpeace activity. The meeting “ended in a draw,” the vote was postponed, and Meza requested the intervention of Chile’s General Water Department.
The second “game” took place yesterday on Wednesday, July 17. Supporters of the Glacier team gathered with drums, chants, and flags at the National Congress in Valparaíso, and Greenpeace Chile actively tweeted throughout the rally. Policymakers voted in favor of “the protection of the glaciers and their environment” but the definitions remain open-ended. “We have started the vote,” Asún told GlacierHub yesterday. “Beyond that, there is not much to comment.” The “games” will continue in two weeks time when the Commission meets for its third match.
As the law is written today, Chile’s glaciers are very vulnerable to mining activity in the region. Codelco’s Andina 244 expansion project (copper) and Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama open-pit project (gold, silver, copper) are two major mining initiatives criticized for their negative impact on Chile’s glaciers. Andina 244 is closely situated to Santiago, and the glaciers nearby supply freshwater to Chile’s most populated region.
Since establishing the Republic, Greenpeace has pushed the Chilean government to enact legislation that fully protects its glaciers via a “five-star glacier law proposal.” If such legislation is set, Greenpeace states, the Glacier Republic will “return” its glaciers to Chile.
President Michelle Bachelet has acknowledged the Greenpeace demands for the protection of Chile’s glaciers. However, government proposals to date have only referenced the protection of glaciers already in national parks. Asún says that this is simply not enough.
“While 12 nations compete to be the best in Latin America,” Greenpeace states, “the Glacier Republic plays for something equally or more important: its existence.”