Scientific Tensions Among Early Glacier Researchers
From Isis: “Historians of science have long recognized the field as a socially heterogeneous space wherein different groups jostle for access and to assert the priority of their activities… The essay analyzes a dispute between a mountaineer and a scientist-mountaineer that took place at this time, in which the scientist turned to mountaineering ethics to confront accusations of pseudoscience.”
Hydropower and Glacier Shrinkage in the Italian Alps
From Applied Energy: “We assess the impacts of nine climate-change scenarios on the hydrological regime and on hydropower production of forty-two glacierized basins across the Italian Alps, assumed exemplary of similar systems in other glacierized contexts.”
Read more about hydropower in the Italian Alps here.
Declining Glacier Cover Threatens Biodiversity
From Global Change Biology: “Climate change poses a considerable threat to the biodiversity of high altitude ecosystems worldwide, including cold‐water river systems that are responding rapidly to a shrinking cryosphere… Using new datasets from the European Alps, we show significant responses to declining glacier cover for diatoms, which play a critical functional role as freshwater primary producers.”
Veniaminof, a glacier-covered volcano on the Alaska Peninsula, has been erupting since early September. As of 4 October, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reports that seismic unrest continues at Veniaminof, which remains at code ORANGE/WATCH, with satellite data observing elevated surface temperatures. The volcano, which last erupted in 2013, is producing lava and minor ash emissions.
This Photo Friday, view images of Veniaminof’s recent unrest.
Restless Glacier-Covered Volcano on Alaska Peninsula
From Alaska Volcano Observatory: “Unrest continues at Veniaminof. Seismicity remains elevated with weak tremor, but levels have decreased since midweek. Webcam views of the volcano have been obscured by clouds. Cloudy satellite data over the past 24 hours show intermittent elevated surface temperatures. No significant ash emissions have been observed or reported.”
Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Bolivian Andes
From Natural Hazards: “Previous research has identified three potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the Bolivian Andes, but no attempt has yet been made to model GLOF inundation downstream from these lakes… We suggest that Laguna Arkhata and Pelechuco lake represent the greatest risk due to the higher numbers of people who live in the potential flow paths, and hence, these two glacial lakes should be a priority for risk managers.”
Read more about GLOF risk in the Bolivian Andes here.
Feeding Ecology of Capelin in a Greenland Fjord
From Polar Biology: “Capelin (Mallotus villosus) is an important trophic node in many Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems. In Godthåbsfjord, West Greenland, the zooplankton community has been shown to change significantly from the inner part of the fjord, which is impacted by several glaciers to the shelf outside the fjord. To what extent this gradient in zooplankton composition influences capelin diet during their summer feeding in the fjord is yet unknown.”
Learn more about the feeding ecology of Capelin here.
A highly anticipated new French volume of a 2015 comic book by Japanese graphic artist Yuichi Yokoyama is due to debut in September 2018. The book, “Iceland,” or “La Terre de Glace,” has appeared in both English and Japanese and features a fantasy country with glaciers. Yokoyama prefers the term “gekiga” over “manga” to describe his comics that bring to life a glaciated fictional landscape somewhere close to the Arctic region by utilizing the relationship between image and time.
A positive review in The Comics Journal says that the “tense, terse text stands up fine on its own as a jagged shard of narrative content and as an exemplar of its creator’s talent for arrestingly meticulous, ambitious design.” This Photo Friday, view images from Yokoyama’s “Iceland,” in anticipation of the September release.
From The Washington Post: “A U.S. Geological Survey study documenting how climate change has “dramatically reduced” glaciers in Montana came under fire from high-level Interior Department officials last May, according to a batch of newly released records under the Freedom of Information Act, as they questioned federal scientists’ description of the decline. Doug Domenech, assistant secretary for insular areas at Interior, alerted colleagues in a May 10 email to the language the USGS had used to publicize a study documenting the shrinking of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966. Domenech wrote to three other Interior officials, ‘This is a perfect example of them going beyond their wheelhouse.'”
From Journal of Glaciology: “Accurate quantification of rates of glacier mass loss is critical for managing water resources and for assessing hazards at ice-clad volcanoes, especially in arid regions like southern Peru. In these regions, glacier and snow melt are crucial dry season water resources. In order to verify previously reported rates of ice area decline at Nevado Coropuna in Peru, which are anomalously rapid for tropical glaciers, we measured changes in ice cap area using 259 Landsat images acquired from 1980 to 2014. If glacier recession continues at its present rate, our results suggest that Coropuna Ice Cap will likely continue to contribute to water supply for agricultural and domestic uses until ∼2120, which is nearly 100 years longer than previously predicted.”
From Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science: “Kelp forests are complex underwater habitats that support diverse assemblages of animals ranging from sessile filter feeding invertebrates to fishes and marine mammals. In this study, the diversity of invertebrate fauna associated with kelp holdfasts was surveyed in a high Arctic glacial fjord (76 N, Hornsund, Svalbard).”
Read more about kelp in a high Arctic glacial fjord here.
Collapse of Two Glaciers in Tibet After Surge-like Instability
From Nature: “Surges and glacier avalanches are expressions of glacier instability, and among the most dramatic phenomena in the mountain cryosphere. Until now, the catastrophic collapse of a glacier, combining the large volume of surges and mobility of ice avalanches, has been reported only for the 2002 130 × 106 m3 detachment of Kolka Glacier (Caucasus Mountains), which has been considered a globally singular event. Here, we report on the similar detachment of the entire lower parts of two adjacent glaciers in western Tibet in July and September 2016, leading to an unprecedented pair of giant low-angle ice avalanches with volumes of 68 ± 2 × 106 m3 and 83 ± 2 × 106 m3… Our findings show that large catastrophic instabilities of low-angle glaciers can happen under rare circumstances without historical precedent.”
Five Army Personnel Missing After Avalanche Hits Siachen
From The Express Tribune: “At least five army personnel have gone missing after an avalanche hit an army base in world’s higgest battle ground Siachen. The Pakistan army has started a rescue operation in the area with the help of locals. Heavy machinery has also been sent to speed up the rescue operation. However, the army has still not confirmed any casualties… Avalanches and landslides are common at the Siachen Glacier during the winter and temperatures there can drop as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius. An estimated 8,000 troops have died on the glacier since 1984, almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbite, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat.”
Read more about the avalanche at the Siachen Glacier here.
3-D Stereo Images Reconstruct Changes in Antarctic Peninsula Glaciers
From Remote Sensing of Environment: “This paper presents detailed elevation and volume analysis of 16 individual glaciers, grouped at four locations, spread across the Antarctic Peninsula (AP). The study makes use of newly available WorldView-2 satellite stereo imagery to exploit the previously untapped value of archival stereo aerial photography. High resolution photogrammetric digital elevation models (DEMs) are derived to determine three-dimensional glacier change over an unprecedented time span of six decades with an unparalleled mean areal coverage of 82 percent per glacier… The analysis provides insight into one of the most challenging and data-scarce areas on the planet by expanding the spatial extent north of the AP to include previously un-studied glaciers located in the South Shetland Islands. 81 percent of glaciers studied showed considerable loss of volume over the period of record.”
On Tuesday, national parks and glaciers received a brief reprieve from a government shutdown that threatened to indefinitely close their access. Forestalling a larger fiscal crisis, President Donald Trump signed a stopgap spending bill to reinstate funds until Feb. 8 and reopen the government. The bill allows furloughed employees to return to work for at least the next few weeks, but questions remain over the future of federal lands, with the public relying heavily on federal employees to keep the parks open and accessible.
Visitors who attempted to enter some of the 417 National Park Service sites over the weekend, including parks with glaciers, faced roadblocks and closed signs as lawmakers argued over the country’s fate. The three-day shutdown could be a preview for future, more extended closures absent a solution to the partisan gridlock, placing glaciers at increased risk.
The government shutdown comes at a critical time for national parks, as many from North Cascades to Glacier Bay face challenges from the impacts of climate change and glacier retreat.
“Grand Teton National Park includes more than 25 percent of Wyoming’s glaciers. Its iconic mountains and glacial lakes have come to symbolize the Rockies for many, not only in Wyoming but around the world,” said Sarah Strauss, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, to GlacierHub. “The closing of this national park because of the governmentshutdown would be a great loss, adding insult to the existing injury of climate change impacts on snowpack in the Rocky Mountain region.”
Important Shutdown Notice: During a Federal government shutdown, we do not monitor or update social media. North Cascades National Park Service Complex is closed for resource protection and safety. For more information, https://t.co/ijnD6hbv4m.
What would an extended government shutdown look like? The NPS contingency plan for a loss of funding calls for the expeditious suspension of all park activities. Within two days of a loss of appropriations, the NPS will move to fully secure national park facilities except for those reserved for emergency operations or protection of property, blocking access to quintessential American landmarks and glaciers. Operations and staffing numbers will be reduced to minimum levels with official offices and support centers shuttered and visitor services, including check-in, restrooms, road maintenance, permits, campgrounds, and public information, discontinued. More information on the NPS contingency plan in the event of a loss of appropriations can be found here.
During the recent three-day government shutdown that began on Friday, the Trump administration kept the parks “largely open” in an effort to avert the “public-facing impact” of the crisis, according to the Washington Post. This left visitors to parks like Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier largely without the support of park rangers, while a third of the NPS sites closed completely by Saturday, according to reports from the National Parks Conservation Association.
Closed and empty national park sites were a point of public frustration during the government shutdown of 2013 that lasted for 16 days and closed 401 national sites. Before that crisis ended, the Interior Department allowed some national parks to reopen with state funding, but even this precedent spells an uncertain fate for public lands already facing budget cuts.
Some national parks are more familiar with operating at minimum levels based on seasonal weather, but these parks are still impacted by the off-season. “I think park staff is often the most heavily affected during winter shutdowns of Alaska parks,” said Jeremy Pataky, an Alaska resident who splits his time between Anchorage and McCarthy, Alaska, and has spent time in the parks.
While parks like Denali may not close officially in winter, concession services, ranger activities and buses shut down, meaning a reduction in staff and visitors. During the recent government shutdown, Denali and Glacier Bay national parks remained open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but suspended visitor services and centers. Meanwhile, an alert on the Mount Rainer National Park website indicated “entry during the federal shutdown is at visitors’ sole risk.” A reduction of park staff and services can lead to increased safety risks, evidenced most recently by a snowmobiler who came too close to the Old Faithful geyser during the three-day shutdown.
During a federal government shutdown, we do not monitor or update social media. Some Glacier National Park areas are accessible, however access may change without notice, and there are no NPS-provided services. For more park information, visit https://t.co/bTuF8eR6PA
For some, the government shutdown is just the latest attack by the Trump administration on federal lands. In January 2017, Trump signed a memorandum freezing the hiring of new federal workers, including for the National Park Service, despite visitor increases at the parks. In January 2018, more than three-quarters of the advisory board of the National Park Service quit due to frustrations with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who had not called a single meeting during the year. A recent poll found some Americans believe the Democrats are equally to blame for the shutdown.
The National Parks Conservation Association, an independent, nonpartisan organization, tweeted its thoughts on the latest crisis, stating, “President Trump’s first year in office ended with a government shutdown, putting parks at risk. That’s fitting, because we’ve never seen a tougher year for public lands.”
Beyond February, the future of America’s national parks remains uncertain, with the safety of America’s glaciers hanging in the balance.
Doug Scott, one of mountaineering’s all-time greats, has gone where most humans only dream to go, reaching the summits of over 40 Himalayan peaks. Not only was he the first to ascend Everest’s South West Face, he has journeyed from Mount Kenya to the Karakoram and beyond, bringing his camera along with him to capture his perspective of the world’s most remote mountain landscapes.
Scott’s mountain photography, which includes images of famous glaciers, was recently exhibited for the first time in black and white at the D-Contemporary Gallery in Mayfair, London. This Photo Friday, explore some of these images with GlacierHub, and view some of Scott’s other work from the exhibit here.
As you get ready to kick off 2018, take a look back at some of GlacierHub’s top stories of 2017.
Venezuela Is Losing its Last Glacier
“Venezuela used to have five glaciers. Today, only one remains. The last glacier in Venezuela, the Humboldt glacier, is about to disappear. “Reduced to an area of ten football pitches, a tenth of its size 30 years ago, it will be gone within a decade or two,” reports The Economist. Once Venezuela loses the Humbolt, it will become the first country in modern history to have lost all of its glaciers.
The glacier is expected to completely vanish in ten to twenty years, and scientists have expressed the importance of studying the glacier in its last stages. However, the political and economic crisis in Venezuela makes it difficult to study the glacier. In the past, studies have shown how rapid glacier retreat affects the water cycle in glacier-dependent basins, which changes water regulation and availability. Thus, the disappearance of the Humboldt glacier will impact local communities as run-off stability and water supply for agriculture change.”
World Bank Study Proposes Solutions to Bolivia’s Water Crisis
“Bolivia is currently in the midst of the worst drought in twenty-five years following decades of intense water crises, including an infamous “water war” in 2000 in the city of Cochabamba in which tens of thousands of Bolivians protested the privatization of water. To cope with the current situation, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has declared a national state of emergency, imposed stricter water rationing, and even fired a top water official, but can more be done to alleviate the crisis?
In a recent report for the World Bank Group, Sarah Botton et al. cover the current crisis and explain how a blend of “big system” water infrastructure, in which a single operator manages the piped system, and “small system” infrastructure, in which individuals informally control water resources, can help conditions in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, and El Alto, a large adjacent city known for its high elevation and largely indigenous population.”
“‘I grew up in the Yakima Valley (near Mount St. Helens). I was out fishing when I saw the lightning and dark cloud,” Flickr user vmf-214, who captured the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, told GlacierHub. “It looked like a storm. I saw it as I pulled into the yard. Mom came out and said the mountain had blown.’ He was describing the volcanic eruption that occurred at Mount St. Helens 37 years ago in May 1980. During that event, an eruption column rose into the sky, ultimately impacting 11 states in the U.S. But it wasn’t just the people who live in the area that were affected by the eruption: the glaciers of Mount St. Helens melted into nearby rivers, causing several mudslides.
Cascades Volcano Observatory indicates that before the 1980 eruption, extensive glaciers had covered Mount St. Helens for several hundred thousand years. About 3,900 years ago, Mount St. Helens began to grow to its pre-eruption elevation and a high cone developed, allowing for substantial glacial formation. There were 11 major glaciers and several unnamed glaciers by May 18, 1980, according to the United States Geological Survey. But after the eruption and resultant landslide, about 70 percent of the glacier mass was removed from the mountainside. It was during the winter of 1980 to 1981, following the catastrophic eruption, that a new glacier, Crater Glacier, first emerged.”
New Research Offers Fresh Insight into the Iceman’s Death
“Ötzi, also known as the Iceman, is showing new signs of life – in his gut. Gabriele Andrea Lugli and other researchers from the University of Parma recently publishedfindings on the Iceman in Microbiome Journal. Their research analyzes samples taken from Ötzi’s gut in order to reconstruct and characterize ancient bacteria to provide clues on how bacteria may have affected humans. While some evidence suggests that the Iceman was murdered or died from the lingering effects of an attack, researchers have now uncovered a new possible cause of death: inflammatory bowel disease.”
Polar Bears and Ringed Seals: A Relationship in Transition
“Along the tidal glacier fronts of Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway and the North Pole, polar bears have changed their hunting practices. A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology indicates the new behavior is a response to rapidly disappearing sea ice. Charmain Hamilton and other researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute mapped changes in the spatial overlap between coastal polar bears and their primary prey, ringed seals, to better understand how the bears are responding to climate change. The results don’t bode well for the long-term survival of polar bear populations: as sea ice continues to shrink in area, ringed seals—calorie-rich prey that are high in fat— have become increasingly difficult to catch during the summer and autumn. The bears are now finding sources of sustenance elsewhere: in the archipelago’s thriving bird colonies.”
A New View on Border Tensions between India and China
“Numerous disputes exist in remote regions of the world where the terrain makes it difficult to secure and manage borders. One well-known example is the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas. Known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), this line demarcating the frontier between Indian and Chinese-controlled territory is the longest disputed land border in the world. Natural, human and technological issues complicate the management of this disputed border, as explained by Iskander Rehman in a paper published in the most recent issue of the Naval War College Review.”
The Largest Glacier in East Antarctica is Starting to Melt
“Researchers have generally thought that the East Antarctic Ice sheet has remained relatively stable despite global warming. But this is not the case, according to a recent study published in Science Advances. Chad Greene and a team of researchers discovered that the Totten, the largest glacier in East Antarctica, is melting. Shockingly, if the Totten Glacier were to melt entirely, it could raise sea levels by 11 feet.”
This week marked the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists. It brought together over 24,000 of the brightest scientific minds in New Orleans, Louisiana, to discuss groundbreaking research from every field and opportunities for a more sustainable future. Unsurprisingly, glaciers played a prominent role at the meeting, including during their own glaciology poster presentation.
This Photo Friday, enjoy some of the photos from #AGU17.
The Economist: “Venezuela is a tropical country, with rainforest in the south and east, and baking savannah stretching towards its northern Caribbean coast. The Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range in the north-west offers relief from the heat. In 1991 five glaciers occupied nooks near their peaks. Now, just one remains, lodged into a cwm west of Pico Humboldt. Reduced to an area of ten football pitches, a tenth of its size 30 years ago, it will be gone within a decade or two. Venezuela will then be the first country in the satellite age to have lost all its glaciers.”
Read more about Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier here.
Small-Scale Farmers’ Vulnerability in the Peruvian Andes
From Iberoamericana: “Previous studies have shown that climatic changes in the Peruvian Andes pose a threat to lowland communities, mainly through changes in hydrology. This study uses a case study approach and a mixed qualitative-quantitative method to examine the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in the Quillcay River basin to variations in precipitation and enhanced glacier retreat. The findings of the study show partly contradicting results. On one hand, interpretation of semi-structured interviews suggests a strong relation between climate proxies and increased vulnerability of the smallholders. On the other hand, in the quantitative analysis enhanced glacier retreat seemed to have augmented vulnerability solely to some extent whereas precipitation did not show significant impact.”
Learn more about climate change in the Peruvian Andes here.
A Glacier-Permafrost Relationship in Sweden
From Quaternary Research: “Here, we present empirical ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electroresistivity tomography data (ERT) to verify the cold-temperate transition surface-permafrost base (CTS-PB) axis theoretical model. The data were collected from Storglaciären, in Tarfala, Northern Sweden, and its forefield. The GPR results show a material relation between the glacial ice and the sediments incorporated in the glacier, and a geophysical relation between the ‘cold ice’ and the ‘temperate ice’ layers…The results show how these surfaces form a specific continuous environmental axis; thus, both glacial and periglacial areas can be treated uniformly as a specific continuum in the geophysical sense.”
On October 10 at 11:30 p.m., an explosion rocked the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeast Russia, where it is reported that Sheveluch, an active, glacier-covered volcano, has erupted. There are a number of glacier-covered volcanos in the region, but the Sheveluch is one of the largest volcanic structures in the Kamchatka. A plume of ashes rose to at least 8,000 meters and was reportedly spotted later 180 km to the north. Ash eruptions can negatively impact international flights, which routinely fly over the area. The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team, KVERT, reports an activation color of orange, with the explosive-extrusive eruption of the volcano continuing and threats of “ash explosions up to 32,800-49,200 ft (10-15 km) a.s.l.” that could occur at any time.