Photo Friday: New Images of Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier may be the glacier-covered peak most frequently shown in images on GlacierHub. Yet we never tire of it. Other people also seem to feel an enthusiasm for this extraordinary mountain, since they make their photographs publicly available. Here are some selections that have struck us. Taken from the air, from the sea and from land, they capture some of the mountain’s many aspects–sometimes remote, sometimes in the midst of human activity. They show that a mountain can never fully become familiar, because it can always be seen afresh.


Rainier from the west (source: Mobilus in Mobili/Flickr)
Rainier from the west (source: Mobilus in Mobili/Flickr)


Rainier from Puget Sound (source: Tiffany von Arnim/Flickr)
Rainier from Puget Sound (source: Tiffany von Arnim/Flickr)


Wildflowers on Rainier (source: Sigma Seedharan/Twitter)
Wildflowers on Rainier (source: Sigma Sreedharan/Twitter)



Rainier from the air (source: Rose Condrieu/Twitter)
Rainier from the air (source: Rose Condrieu/Twitter)



Rainier, reflected in a lake (source: Michael Green/Twitter)
Rainier, reflected in a lake (source: Michael Green/Twitter)

An All-Woman Climbing Team in the Andes

Ascending Chachacomani (source: Griselda Moreno)

Mujer Montaña—“Woman Mountain” in Spanish—participated in a recent project of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), in which women climbers from Latin America and Europe carried out ascents of peaks in two mountain ranges in the Bolivian Andes. They established mountaineering records, achieving first all-female ascents and opening new routes. They met another goal as well,  promoting exchanges between people of different cultures and worldviews. And, in their distinctive way, they built awareness of mountains in the context of climate change—a key goal of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Award Platform, which supported the project.

Sunset in the Bolivian Andes (source: Griselda Morano)
Sunset in the Bolivian Andes (source: Griselda Moreno)

This project, supported by a number of government agencies and tourism firms in South America and Europe, brought together the members of Mujer Montaña, a Latin American group founded in 2013, with representatives of the Women’s High Mountain Group of the French Federation of Alpine Mountain Clubs (a UIAA member since 1932). In total, four women from South America and eight from Europe took part in the project.

Making offering to Pachamama (Earth Mother) and the apus (Mountain Lords) (Source: Griselda Moreno)
Making offering to Pachamama (Earth Mother) and the apus (Mountain Lords) (Source: Griselda Moreno)

The group started out in the Quimsa Cruz range on 28 July, staying there through 7 August. Traveling from their base camp at 4,400m, they climbed a new route up Torrini (5800 m). The second stage in the Cordillera Real, from 10 to 19 August, included ascents of Chachacomani (6100m), Janq’o Uyu (5520m) and Jisk’a Pata (5510m). The final stage, in the city of La Paz, involved a meeting on 22 August with students at the Catholic University of Bolivia, discussing issues of mountain protection, climate change and glacier retreat. On the last day, 23 August, they participated in a program with teachers and schoolgirls which linked climbing and self-esteem, and addressed issues of female empowerment. Carolina Adler, the president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Program, took part in the Janq’o Uyu ascent, as well as the last two days in La Paz.

Dawn on Chachacomani (source: Griselda Moreno)
Dawn on Chachacomani (source: Griselda Moreno)

The group is preparing a documentary film about their expedition, and preparing their next climbs, scheduled for November, which will take place in Ecuador. And they are waiting for the selection of the 2016 UIAA Mountain Protection Award winner. That will be announced October 14 in Brixen, Sudtirol, Italy during the 2016 UIAA General Assembly.

GlacierHub interviewed Lixayda Vasquez, one of the participants in the project. Vasquez comes from Cusco, Peru. In addition to Spanish, she also speaks Quechua, a major indigenous language of the Andes.

Lixayda Vasquez (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)
Lixayda Vasquez (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)

GH: What do you see as the significance of all-woman climbing expeditions?

LV: I think that what is most important is to stop seeing mountains as a place where only strong men, the ones with “big muscles,” can go. In recent times, many women in my country have wanted to explore new experiences for themselves, experiences which take them outside their comfort zone. They leave this zone, filled with myths and a whole machismo complex. And they discover that when they go outdoors, they enter a wonderful world where they never feel alone, because they are connected with nature.

It’s not necessary to go to the mountain in expeditions that are composed only of women, or only of men. The best way is for men and women to complement each other. We can remember that men and women are parts of the same world. And we can both bring our distinct contributions to make this world better.


Lixayda Vasquez, on her 21st birthday, on the summit of Cotopaxi, Ecuador (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)
Lixayda Vasquez, on her 21st birthday, on the summit of Cotopaxi, Ecuador (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)

GH: As a climber who speaks Quechua, have you ever used Quechua on an expedition?

LV: Quechua once saved my life.

I was with a group of friends from the climbing club in Cusco. We were trying to ascend Chicón, a snow peak in Cusco. It was already dark when we were returning to our camp near a village. A group of people came up towards us. Some of them were very drunk. They thought that we were the thieves, the ones who had stolen their alpacas several days earlier.

They were ready to kill us, burn our bodies and bury us there, where no one would ever find us. That is what they told us. We were terrified. We tried to explain that we were climbers, but none of them had ever heard of that.

We were in that situation until I said the magic word: chicarapuiku [We are completely lost]. As soon as I said that, they all calmed down, and finally they listened to us.


Lixayda Vasquez leading an ascent of Ausangate (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)
Lixayda Vasquez leading an ascent of Ausangate (source: Lixayda Vasquez/Facebook)

GH: You are from the mountain city of Cusco, and you have seen the snow peak of Ausangate since you were a little child.  How have your connections with mountains changed over time?

LV: I had the good fortune to spend a lot of my childhood in the town where my grandparents live, very close to the high Vilcanota Cordillera. When I looked out my window there, every day I would see imposing mountains, and Ausangate was among them. I would spend hours gazing at them and imagining myself up in them. When I was 19, I got to know a group of rock climbers, and we arranged for a mountain guide to teach us about mountain climbing. That changed my life. I’ve never stopped climbing since then. When I was 23, I fulfilled my dream of looking out from the summit of Ausangate and recognizing the towns and valleys of my childhood. Now, a more mature person, I plan to live connected to the countryside and to the mountains. I will ascend what the mountain lets me ascend.


Lixayda Vasquez will participate next month in an expedition of Mujer Montaña in Ecuador, where she will pass through other Quechua communities and ascend other Andean peaks. You can follow her on Facebook.


Glacier Countries Help the Paris Agreement Enter into Force

Small Glacier Countries Take a Big Step

Paris Agreement Tracker, October 6, 2016 (source: WRI)
Paris Agreement Tracker, October 6, 2016 (source: WRI)

On October 5, several small mountain countries with glaciers—Austria, Bolivia, and Nepal—undertook an important step in advancing global action on climate change. They helped the Paris Agreement reach the threshold to enter into force and become legally binding. This Agreement, the outcome of the UNFCCC COP21 last November, is widely recognized as the most important international accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

For the Agreement to enter into force, two conditions had to be met. The Agreement had to be ratified by at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, and these Parties—nearly all of them nations—had to account in total for at least 55% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Both of these steps were completed on October 5 through the ratification by 10 nations, including the three mentioned above, and one additional party, the European Union. This step closely follows the ratification by another small glacier country, New Zealand, on October 4. According to the terms of the Agreement, its entry into force will take place 30 days after the two conditions were met. That will occur on November 4, at COP22 in Marrakech. Morocco.

Minister and parliamentarians discussing climate change in Kathmandu (source: Batu Krishna Uprety/Twitter)
Minister and parliamentarians discussing climate change in Kathmandu (source: Batu Krishna Uprety/Twitter)

Though each country had taken many factors into consideration as it weighed the possibility of ratification, it is striking that some mentioned glaciers specifically. Nepal’s official statement comments, “Nepal highlights that the Paris Agreement is a living instrument meant for serious implementation, in tandem with 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and hopes that its sincere implementation would help us adapt and mitigate the recurring problems such as landslides, floods, melting of glaciers, erratic and extreme weather patterns, and loss of biodiversity directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.”

The somber tone of this statement suggests a broad awareness of the threat of climate change in that country, where the ratification was the product of a unanimous vote in Nepal’s Parliament. Such moments of unity are rare in a country marked by fractious politics.

New Zealand deposits instrument of ratification at UN (source: Paula Bennett/Twitter)
New Zealand deposits instrument of ratification at UN (source: Paula Bennett/Twitter)

There was also strong agreement in New Zealand, where parliamentary votes are often highly contested. This point was noted by the country’s Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett—a person of mixed indigenous Maori and European heritage—in her statement to the press. “I’d like to thank the select committee and my parliamentary colleagues for the cross-party support of New Zealand’s involvement in this significant agreement.” She emphasized the importance of the event. “New Zealand has helped make history today by ratifying the Paris Agreement. … Although New Zealand contributes only a small proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, our contribution counts.”


Earlier Actions on the Paris Agreement

These recent actions follow on the steps taken by other countries, which ratified the Agreement earlier and brought it closer to the 55/55 threshold. Of particular importance were the small island states, who were among the first to ratify when it opened on April 22. China and the United States both agreed to ratify on September 5, when the two heads of state, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, met in Hangzhou.

Signing of Peru's instrument of ratification, Lima (source:MINAM)
Signing of Peru’s instrument of ratification, Lima (source:MINAM)

Peru, another glacier country, was also an early ratifier. It undertook this step on July 22, the first Latin American country to do so, in a major event attended by the President, Ollanta Humala, and the ministers of foreign relations, of the environment and of culture. The official statement by the Ministry of Foreign Relations linked the Paris Agreement to COP20, held in Peru in 2014, where the Lima Call for Climate Action was signed.

Benjamin Morales, the director of Peru’s National Research Institute for Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems (INAIGEM), explicitly linked his country’s attention to glaciers and its early ratification. In an email interview, he stated, “Peru is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to climate change. With the creation of INAIGEM [in 2015], it showed its commitment to carry out concrete actions to combat climate change.” The ratification of the Agreement was another such action, he added.

Jorge Recharte, the director of the Andean Program at the Mountain Institute, also underscored this link. In an interview, he stated

Peru ratified the Paris agreement on July 22, 2016. This step culminated an incremental process of climate awareness in the nation that, in no small part, was driven by the rapid recession of glaciers in Peru’s 19 ranges. Peru’s mountain agenda was promoted by civil society and government agencies since the International Year of Mountains in 2002. COP20 in Lima Peru, culminated a period of over ten years in which Peru was an active stakeholder promoting global action to deal with climate change. During this process one of the main difficulties to promote the Mountain Agenda more forcefully was the lack of harmony in strategies and control of the process between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the technical agencies in the country, initially with the National Council for the Environment (CONAM). With the creation of the Ministry of Environment (MINAM) in 2008, the mountain agenda was eventually moved to MINAM’s Directorate of Biodiversity. Thu, while Peru has on the one hand taken action internally to respond to climate change impacts on mountains, on the other hand its role engaging other mountain countries to negotiate support and promote more visibility of mountain peoples in the global arena has unfortunately faded. With the signing of the Paris Agreement, cooperation among mountain countries is more relevant than ever in order to jointly promote the incorporation of mountain needs in climate and development mechanisms (e.g. the Green Climate Fund (GCF) or the UN Millenium Development Goals).

Iceland's Minister of Foreign Affairs deposits instrument of ratification (source: Lilja Alfredsfottir/Twitter)
Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs deposits instrument of ratification (source: Lilja Alfredsfottir/Twitter)

Other small glacier countries were important early ratifiers, including Norway on June 20 and Iceland on September 21. These two countries may have taken this step earlier since they are not members of the European Union and could act in advance of other European countries. Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir described the ratification as an act of solidarity. “By ratifying the Paris Agreement, Iceland has joined hands with a number of countries in paving the way for this immensely important global agreement to enter into force as soon as possible, ” she said. “Iceland stands shoulder to shoulder with many of the world’s most ambitious states when it comes to addressing climate change.”

Several small glacier countries—Chile, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Bhutan–are among the group of countries which have not yet signed the Agreement.

Ryskeldi Satke, a journalist in Kyrgyzstan, wrote to GlacierHub, “It is difficult to say when Kyrgyzstan will ratify the Paris Agreement. The Kyrgyz government took a step forward by signing it and the ratification should follow as expected.” He noted “the Tian Shan, Kyrgyzstan’s main mountain range, have been dramatically losing glacier mass in the last 50 years. This process is not likely to stop.  Climate change is going to be one of the challenging tasks for the country to deal with in the decades ahead. Certainly, Paris Agreement is a positive step for the Central Asian nation because Kyrgyzstan is not capable to manage climate change impact on its own.”

Matthias Jurek, a Programme Management Officer of UN Environment working on mountain ecosystems, offered his views of the actions of the small glacier countries as a set. He warned against overinterpreting the lack of ratification by a few of them. In an interview with GlacierHub, he wrote, “I would be very cautious in making assumptions…about the background why certain (mountainous) countries have not yet deposited their instrument of ratification. The procedures of ratification processes… can be very time-consuming. I would not question the political will of these countries.”

Jurek concluded “the mountain countries that have already deposited their instrument of ratification [serve] a good and positive signal to inspire others to do the same.”

It is striking to see how small island countries were among the first to ratify the Agreement, and how small glacier countries were among the ones to bring it into force. The melting of glaciers in the latter contributes to the sea level rise that impacts the former. In both cases, small vulnerable countries played large roles in addressing problems which they face–and which the whole world faces as well.

Sports Medicine Specialist Discusses Ice Climbing

Volker Schoeffl climbing in Laos (source: Tanya Weidner/Green Climbers Home)
Volker Schoeffl climbing in Laos (source: Tanya Weidner/Green Climbers Home)

Volker Schoeffl, a physician and professor in Bamberg, Germany, is a leading specialist on sports medicine, with particular emphasis on climbing. He works in both Germany. He is the physician of the German national climbing team, and also serves on the medical commissions of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation  and the International Federation of Sport Climbing.  He is an accomplished climber himself, having completed the first ascent of the south face of Batu Lawi in Sarawak, Indonesia, and having climbed more recently in Laos.

GlacierHub recently interviewed Schoeffl about his research.

Ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies (source: Pazit Polak/Flicker)
Ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies (source: Pazit Polak/Flicker)

GH: In a recent publication on extreme sports, you discussed ice climbing, and stated “Most of the acute injuries (73.4%) happened in an icefall climbing, a smaller number on glacier ice walls (11.4%), and the least on artificial ice walls (2.5%).”  Do you think that this low proportion of injuries on glaciers is due to a lower rate of injuries per hour for this activity, or to the fact that people climb more often on icefalls than they do on glacier ice walls or artificial ice walls?

VS: I would say that the latter reason is the important one. Fewer people climb on glacier ice walls and on artificial ice walls than they do on icefalls.


Ice climbing in the Colorado Rockiers (source: John Fowler/Flickr)
Ice climbing in the Colorado Rockies (source: John Fowler/Flickr)

GH: In this publication, you also state, “The overall injury rate [in ice climbing] published in the literature is comparable with other outdoor sports (2.87-4.07 injuries/1000 hrs, with most injuries of minor severity.” Do you think people perceive ice climbing as more dangerous than rock climbing?

VS: I personally still think that ice climbing is riskier than rock climbing. However, the study did not definitively prove that. Further evidence must be collected before we can reach firm conclusions.  We do know that there are very different risk profiles in different kinds of climbing. For example, indoor climbing lacks certain external objective dangers, such as rockfalls, which are much more common in ice climbing and traditional rock climbing.


Volker Schoffl climbing indoors in Europe (source: Enrico Haase/Outdoor Sports Team)
Volker Schoffl climbing indoors in Europe (source: Enrico Haase/Outdoor Sports Team)

GH: Do you have any thoughts or information on accidents and injuries that are related specifically to glaciers, such as falling into crevasses?

VS: I cannot comment on this topic, because data are not available.


GH: What advice would you give to ice climbers?

VS: I would give the advice that they most likely already know. Be extra cautious, because falling is not an option! Be sure to consider external hazards, such as icefalls and avalanches. And remember that not only ascents are risky; descents are dangerous as well.

Readers who would like to learn more about Dr. Schoeffl’s research and to hear his advice can read his book, One Move Too Many: How to Understand the Injuries and Overuse Syndromes of Rock Climbing. First published in 2033, the third edition of the book, with extensive new material, was published earlier this year.

Landscape in the Bavarian Alps (source: German Alpine Club)
Landscape in the Bavarian Alps (source: German Alpine Club)

Interested readers can also participate in a sports medicine clinic which he is co-organizing in Bamberg, Germany from June 22 to 25, 2017, which addresses climbing, as well as running. It includes sessions on training and on injury prevention, as well as on diagnosis and treatment of injuries. This event is sponsored by the German Alpine Club, the Bavarian Sports Medicine Association, and Bamberg Social Foundation. The program and registration forms are available here.

Roundup: The Past, Present and Future of Ice on Earth and Mars

This Week’s Roundup: Glacier Archaeology, Medicine and Simulation

Researchers explore an abandoned ice-skating rink at a glacier in New Zealand

From the New Zealand Department of Conservation: “In its heyday (the 1930s), the Mt. Harper ice rink was reputed to be the largest ice rink in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting hundreds of ice skaters and hockey players to its remote location each winter. However, World War II, petrol rationing, warmer winters and new indoor rinks all contributed to its demise. Today, considerable evidence of the complex remains intact, from buildings, to the rinks themselves, and the trees that were planted to shade and protect the rink—all in a remote and spectacular location.”

Read about the site and see more photos here:

A plow found near the site of the rink, used–in the absence of Zambonis–to prepare the rink or ice. (source: Katharine Watson/NZ Dept of Conservation)

A specialist in sports medicine finds glaciers less risky than other sites for ice-related spots

From Extreme Sports Medicine: “Rock and ice climbing diversified from mountaineering with various forms of activities, such as sport climbing or deep water soloing. … The overall injury rate is low, with most injuries being of minor severity. Nevertheless the risk of a fatal injury is always present. Both injury rate and fatality rate vary from the different subdisciplines performed and are the lowest for indoor climbing, bouldering or sport climbing. They are naturally higher for alpine climbing or free solo climbing. External factors as objective danger through, e.g. wind chill or rockfall add to the risk. Most injuries and overstrain are on the upper extremity, mostly at the hands and fingers. …Most of the acute injuries (73.4 %) happened in a waterfall, few in glacier ice walls (11.4 %) and on artificial ice walls (2.5 %).”

Learn more about risks associated with glacier sports and other ice sports here:

Ice-climbers with safety equipment (source: Pixabay)
Ice-climbers using crampons, ice-axes, and other safety eqipment (source: Pixabay)

An Austrian glacier served as a field site to test a mission of human researchers on Mars

From Acta Astronautica: “… the AMADEE-15 mission, a 12-day Mars analog field test [was conducted] at the Kaunertal Glacier in Austria. Eleven experiments were conducted by a field crew at the test site under simulated Martian surface exploration conditions and coordinated by a Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, Austria. The experiments’ research fields encompassed geology, human factors, astrobiology, robotics, tele-science, exploration, and operations research. A Remote Science Support team analyzed field data in near real time, providing planning input for a flight control team to manage a complex system of field assets in a realistic work flow, including: two advanced space suit simulators; and four robotic and aerial vehicles. … A 10-minute satellite communication delay and other limitations pertinent to human planetary surface activities were introduced.”

Read more about this simulation here.

Simulating the collection of soil samples on Mars, at a field station on Kaunertal Glacier in Austria.
Simulating the collection of soil samples on Mars, at a field station on Kaunertal Glacier in Austria (source: Acta Astonautica)

Photo Friday: World Nomad Games Held in Kyrgyzstan

The World Nomad Games, held in Kyrgyzstan on September 3-8, drew participants from 40 countries, most of them from former Soviet Union. Competitions were held in over 20 different sports, including archery  and javelin throwing, horse racing and several kinds of wrestling (some between individuals who stand in a ring, another between mounted riders).  A sort of polo played with the headless body of a dead goat, known in Afghanistan as buzkashi and as kok-boru in Kyrgyzstan, is a particular favorite. A board game, toguz, somewhat similar to chess, is a less physical form of competition.

This event was the second World Nomad Games, following the first event in September 2014. This year’s event, like the earlier one, was held at Cholpon-Ata in Naryn Province of Kyrgyzstan, a small town on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, with striking views of the glacier-capped peaks of the Tien Shan.

These photographs demonstrate the vigor of the nomad traditions and the excitement of the participants. They document the importance of horses in nomad cultures, and demostrate other skills as well that have developed over the centuries among the pastoral populations who inhabit the high-elevation grasslands, many of them watered by glacier melt.

American and Russian teams playing kok-buro (source: Ronan Shenhav/FLickr)
American and Russian teams playing kok-boru (source: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)


Kyrgyz men in traditional hats, watching the games (source:Ronan Shenhez/Flickr)
Kyrgyz men in traditional hats, watching the games (source:Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)


Two men reaching for a goat carcass (source: Altainovosti/Twitter)
Two men reaching for a goat carcass in a game of kok-boru (source: Altainovosti/Twitter)


Kyrgyz and Chinese teams playing kok-buro (sourde: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)
Kyrgyz and Chinese teams playing kok-boru (source: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)

Argentina’s National Glacier Inventory Makes Progress

Identifying glaciers in the Atuel drainage, central Andes (source:Facundo Rojas/IANIGLA)
Identifying glaciers in the Atuel drainage, central Andes (source: Facundo Rojas/IANIGLA)

Argentina’s national glacier inventory, which began in 2011, has recently advanced significantly. A group of researchers from the Argentine Institute of Snow Research, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA) wrote recently to GlacierHub They prepared a document, included below, to describe the progress to date. The authors of this document are Laura Zalazar, Lidia Ferri, Mariano Castro, Melisa Giménez, Hernán Gargantini, Pierre Pitte, Lucas Ruiz, and Mariano Masiokas.

Training new researchers for the glacier inventory (source: IANIGLA)
Training new researchers for the glacier inventory (source: IANIGLA)

Glaciers play an important role in Argentina as water reserves, and serve as crucial components of hydrological systems, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. Their rapid shrinkage in the context of global warming creates serious issues for the country. Despite the importance of the glaciers, Argentina lacks precise information on the number, location and size of these glaciers. This gap is one of the reasons that a law, known as Law 26636, was passed in 2010, titled “Minimum Standards for Preservation of Glaciers and periglacial environment.”

The principal objective of this law, laid out in its first article, is “to protect glaciers, considering them as strategic reserves of water resources.” The third article establishes the National Inventory of Glaciers, to document all of the glaciers and periglacial landforms, recording the information that is necessary for their proper protection, management and monitoring as water reserves.

Carrying equipment to Mount Mercedario, central Andes (source: IANIGLA)
Carrying equipment to Mount Mercedario, central Andes (source: IANIGLA)

The inventory and monitoring of glaciers and periglacial environments is carried out by the Argentine Institute of Snow Research, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA), in coordination with the agency charged with enforcing the law, the Ministry for Environment and Sustainable Development.

The work is carried out through three distinct components. The first of these is the mapping and characterization of all the ice bodies in the country. The second is the study of recent fluctuations of selected glaciers, and the final ones consists of studies  of benchmark glaciers which are analyzed in detail to establish the effects of climate change.

Collecting data for mass balance research, Los Tres Glacier, southern Patagonia (source:IANGILA)
Collecting data for mass balance research, Los Tres Glacier, southern Patagonia (source: IANIGLA)

The study of fluctuations of glacier length and area of glaciers is currently scheduled to begin when the full inventory of the country’s glaciers is complete. This timing will allow IANIGLA to identify representative glaciers for all of the drainages.

Progress has been made with research on benchmark glaciers. Three have already been selected, each in a different region, and IANIGLA is monitoring their thickness, mass balance and velocity. These are Agua Negra Glacier in the arid north, Alerce Glacier in northern Patagonia and Los Tres Glacier in southern Patagonia. The process for selecting a fourth benchmark, located in the central Andes, is currently under way.

The mapping and inventory is carried out on a regional basis, recognizing the great climatic variation across the country. The regions, ranging from 21° S to 55° S, are the arid northern Andes, the central Andes, northern Patagonia, southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. In turn, these regions are subdivided into drainages and sub-drainages.

Calingasta Glacier, an example of a debris-covered glacier, northern Argentina (source: IANIGLA)
Calingasta Glacier, an example of a debris-covered glacier, northern Argentina (source: IANIGLA)

Within each of these sub-drainages, glaciers are mapped by remote sensing, along with field observations for validation. The mapping distinguishes rock and debris-covered glaciers, snow patches and ice fields from other glaciers. At present, IANIGLA has worked in 60 of the 70 sub-drainages in the country, and has napped 14,648 glaciers, with a total area of 5557 km2.

Base camp at Lake Tannhauser, southern Patagonia (source: IANIGLA)
Base camp at Lake Tannhauser, southern Patagonia (source: IANIGLA)

The research to date has shown significant regional variation across the country. Southern Patagonia accounts for 60% of the glacier area in the country, but only 14% of the individual glaciers in the inventory, while the central Andes represents 32% of the area and 55% of the total number of glaciers. The area in southern Patagonia is concentrated in a few large glaciers (including the Southern Patagonian Ice Field), while the central Andean glaciers are smaller. The types of glaciers also differ, with many debris-covered glaciers in the arid northern Andes.

IANIGLA looks forward to completing the inventory and the studies of glacier fluctuations. This work will support the effective implementation of the2010 glacier law in policy-making.

Readers can locate reports and maps from the inventory at

Alaska Filmmaker Mike Loso Speaks about Glaciers

The short firm “Glaciers – Why Should We Care?” is currently being shown as part of International Polar Week. This event, running from 19 to 25 September 2016, is designed to promote polar science and education around the world, and includes a five-day film festival. It is sponsored by the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, headquartered at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø.

Michael Loso, a scientist at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, is featured in the film, which shows the importance of glaciers in natural ecosystems and in human society. In a recent interview, Loso explained to GlacierHub that he made the video two years ago when he was a professor at Alaska Pacific University. Stacia Bakkensto, a science outreach coordinator with the National Park Service at Fairbanks, suggested the idea of the video to him. She had selected Alaska’s glaciers as the theme for a story map—a set of video, images, texts and data that are presented in GIS form, linked to a map. She approached Loso because he was the lead author on a report from the NPS, Alaskan National Park Glaciers – Status and Trends Final Report, published in 2014.

Mount Blackburn and Kennicott Glacier (source:NPS)
Mount Blackburn and Kennicott Glacier (Photo source: NPS)

Backensto visited Loso near Kennicott Glacier, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, where he was conducting a field course with students at the university. She shot a good deal of video that day, he recalled, and used some of it for the video featured here. Though that video did not fit into the story map that was produced (that one featured repeat photography of Alaska glaciers), it has circulated in a number of settings, and has received hundreds of views.

In the video, Loso stresses that glaciers are important, not just because they are linked to fisheries, to natural hazards and to other things of economic value to humans, but for themselves. He moved to Alaska because the glaciers are so cool—a word he repeats several times. He expresses the sense of “loss to our heritage” that glaciers are shrinking—in part because of human actions.

Loso states in the video that glaciers aren’t sentient beings “like wolves and bears,” which are protected through the Endangered Species Act. He adds “we don’t have an endangered glaciers act. If I was president, we would have one.”

Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park (Photo source: R. Droker/Flickr)

During the interview, he mentioned that he knew the work of the anthropologist Julie Cruikshank, who has written a book about her field work in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, Do Glaciers Listen? In that book, she discusses the views of the indigenous communities of the region, who believe that glaciers are sentient.

Loso paraphrased Cruikshank’s portrayal of the native historical view: “If you behave poorly towards them [the glaciers], they will exact their revenge.” Our modern scientific view is different, he said, and we understand that glaciers are not sentient. Nonetheless, he said, “cause and effect play out. We have behaved with a lack of respect, and much to everyone’s surprise, there’s a set of consequences that rain down on us.” In that way, he said, “the native peoples were right. The glaciers can cause misfortune, and therein lies a lesson for us, regardless of your worldview.”

He continued to explain his thoughts. The scientific revolution led us to move past “superstition and myth” by providing a scientific explanation for natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions and tornadoes. We no longer viewed these disasters as consequences of our own behavior. But now “the modern environmental movement has renewed that old sense of culpability.” He cited as an example the recent seismic activity in Oklahoma, which has shown us that humans can cause earthquakes.

“Our sense of responsibility has come back,” he said in conclusion. His film, along with his more recent one included below about rapid melting of Alaska’s glaciers, may spread this sense of responsibility more widely.

Photo Friday: 19th Century Russian Paintings of the Caucasus

A number of 19th century Russian artists painted landscapes of the Caucasus. They were fascinated with the region’s rugged mountains— many of them topped with glaciers— and its wild, exotic, fierce inhabitants. The paintings often evoke, directly or indirectly, the wars which ran from 1813 to 1864 in which the Czarist armies displaced the Persian rulers of this region and subjugated the native populations. But the paintings do not simply celebrate Russian conquests. Instead, they underscore the heroism and endurance of the fighters on both sides. Seeking to impress viewers with the dramatic mountains, the artists often exaggerated the height and form of the mountains.

Many of the artists were radicals who opposed the rigid hierarchies of Czarist Russia. Some of them traveled to the Caucasus as exiles from the major Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Among these was the Romantic writer Mikhail Lermontov, known for his poetry and his early novel The Hero of Our Age, and who also produced landscape paintings (the first in the series below is one of his). He was exiled twice, the first time for writing a poem critical of high officials, the second for insulting another publicly.

Other artists had rebelled against the major artistic institutions of Czarist Russia, and the formalism that these institutions promoted. Several of the paintings included below were produced by members of the group The Wanderers, students who left the Imperial Academy of Arts, located in St. Petersburg, in 1863 in frustration at the academy’s deliberate lack of attention to Russian culture. They dedicated themselves to depictions of daily life, showing common people, often in outdoor settings.

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More 19th century Russian paintings of the Caucasus, many of them depicting glaciers, can be found here.

Glacier Research in Peru Links Students with Communities

A faculty member and students from a provincial university in Peru recently presented the results of a class project on glacier research at an international conference. Their study of glacier retreat and environmental risks draws on the familiarity of the faculty and students with local environments and cultures. It sets an important example by showing how this familiarity makes such work possible in what might be seen as an unfavorable setting: a small university in a developing country.

Vizcachani Glacier and Lake Japucocha (source: Google Earth)
Vizcachani Glacier and Lake Japucocha (source: Google Earth)

Renny Aguilar Diaz, the faculty member, teaches environmental engineering at the National University of Juliaca, located in the Puno region in southern Peru. He also works with SENAMHI, the Peruvian National Meteorological and Hydrological Service.

Speaking with GlacierHub last month, and following up with an email interview, Diaz explained that the project focused on  Mount Vizcachani, a peak 6044 meters above sea level in the Cordillera Apolobamba, located on the border between Peru and Bolivia.  He expressed his appreciation for SENAMHI, which provided data and logistical support to the project. He noted as well that the university, founded in 2007, is smaller and less well funded than older universities in Peru.

Map of field site, showing glaciers and lakes (source: R.Diaz)
Map of field site, showing glaciers,  lakes and local community (source: R.Diaz)

The students used two different methods to study the peak, its glaciers and the associated lakes and streams. They examined LANDSAT satellite images from 1985 to 2016 to identify recently formed glacier lakes. This project gave students experience in using the Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI) to analyze these images and detect changes in glacier cover and new lakes. The research also included field trips to the glaciers to provide ground-truthing of the satellite images and to assess water quality.

The field work involved significant challenges: a five-hour drive on unpaved roads in poor condition, and then another five hours of hiking to the glacier. The hiking provided an opportunity for the students to converse with the members of the local community of Pampamachay, whose livelihoods rest on the cultivation of cold-tolerant potato varieties and on the herding of sheep and alpacas.

Research camp below Vizcachani Glacier (source: R. Diaz)
Research camp below Vizcachani Glacier (source: R. Diaz)

Several of the students, who are from the Puno region, speak Quechua, the primary language of the community.  The local residents explained their concerns, particularly about the expansion of artisanal gold mining in the higher sections of the Cordillera, which could lead to water pollution. To assess water quality, the students analyzed the water samples which they collected in the lakes, and found that it was mildly acid, with an average pH of 6.5.

The students later shared this information with the communities, who expressed a fear about possible impacts on pasture and on alpaca herds. Fortunately, this level does not seem threatening, though there is a possibility of increased acidification from the weathering of rocks that are newly exposed by glacier retreat. Diaz wrote to GlacierHub, “the meeting with the community unfolded in a friendly manner.” He mentioned a positive note of the contacts with the community members: the sighting of eight Andean condors.  This species is the largest flying bird in the world, of importance throughout Peru. It appears in the country’s first coat of arms and in indigenous rituals.

Lake Japucocha (source: R. Diaz)
Lake Japucocha (source: R. Diaz)

Diaz, along with another faculty member from the National University of Juliaca, Ricardo Chambi and three students, presented a poster at the International Forum on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems, held in Huaraz, Peru in August. The poster, titled “Glacier Lakes as Indicators of Glacier Retreat in Vizcachani, Cordillera Apolobamba” indicated that the glacier cover in the Cordillera Apolobamba has decreased by 57% between 1985 and 2016. There had been only one lake at the start of this period, Japucocha, but by the end there were five, two of them covering 10 hectares in area. These other lakes are so new that they do not yet have names, but only have been given numbers.

Newly-formed Lake 13, a source of GLOF risk (source: R. Diaz)
Newly-formed Lake 16, a source of GLOF risk (source: R. Diaz)

The researchers reported that there is a significant risk of glacier lake outburst floods. They commented on the instability of the moraines behind which the lakes have formed, and showed an image of one of the new lakes, into which a glacier had recently released ice through a calving event. They comment that the community of Pampamachay lies in the path of these possible flood events, another finding of potential importance to the community.

A number of participants in the forum listened to the explanations which Diaz and the students gave of the poster. Benjamin Morales, the director of INAIGEM, the institution which sponsored the forum, asked several questions after their explanation.  One of the student authors, Franklin Hancco, explained to GlacierHub that this forum was the first conference that he attended outside his home region of Puno. He indicated that it was an exciting opportunity for him to meet researchers from other parts of Peru and Latin America, as well as from Europe and North America.

INAIGEM director Benjamin Morales discussing the poster with faculty and students (source: R. Diaz)
INAIGEM director Benjamin Morales discussing the poster with faculty and students (source: R. Diaz)

The poster demonstrates the potential for training students in scientific research methods, even in small provincial universities that lack the support of wealthier institutions located in the capital city of Lima. Such methods can serve to document processes of glacier change. The poster shows as well the value of linkages between glacier researchers and mountain communities, and the importance of language and culture in establishing these linkages.

Readers who wish to learn more about this project can contact Diaz directly at, Chambi at and Hancco at




Work of Glacier Artist Burko to be Displayed at the UN

Diane Burko at work (source:INSTAAR)
Diane Burko at work (source:INSTAAR)

Works by the artist Diane Burko depicting glaciers and ice sheets will be featured at the United Nations headquarters in New York from September 27 to October 8.  They will be displayed in a digital exhibit “Save the Earth, Save the Land,” in which a screen 50 feet long will be installed in the first floor lobby of the headquarters.  

The images to be shown on this screen include several of Burko’s paintings, along with other works, including a piece by the German artist Joseph Beuys, named 7000 Oaks, for the trees he planted in the city of Kassel, Germany, each accompanied by a basalt column. Other works in this exhibit also suggest the urgency of addressing environmental degradation. Among these are photographs of  the columns which Ugo Rondinone installed near a freeway in the desert outside Las Vegas, David Maisel’s  photographs of  polluted mine sites and Chris Jordan’s images of crushed cars, spent bullet casings and cellphone chargers.

Elegy for Grinnell (source: Burko/Lisica)

This exhibit closely follows the September 21 meeting organized by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The meeting is bringing leaders from countries around the world to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change, accelerating the entry into force of the agreement signed in Paris last November.

Burko’s training as an artist began with painting.  In the late 1970s, she and the artist James Turrell took a flight over the Grand Canyon. This experience was a turning point, leading her to explore landscape imagery and to include aerial photography.  She has traveled widely in Greenland, Svalbard, Patagonia and Antarctica,  and has spent time in high mountains as well, particularly the Rockies. In 2011 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art.  

Her recent work engaged directly with climate change. In addition to taking photographs of glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets, Burko makes paintings whose cracked surfaces evoke crevasse-filled glaciers. These were displayed recently in a solo show earlier this year at the Cindy Lisica Gallery in Houston.  

Portals of Zion (source:Burko/PAFA)
Portals of Zion (source: Burko/PAFA)

Burko continues to produce and display art actively. Her pencil drawing, Portals of Zion, was included in an exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for the centennial of the national parks.  She took part in a two-person show with Paula Winokur, titled Glacial Dimensions-Art and the Global Ice Melt, that ran from February through April at the Karl & Helen Burger Gallery at Kean University in Philadelphia.    

Burko’s photographs and Winokur’s porcelain sculptures presented the beauty and fragility of ice and snow. Burko wrote to GlacierHub that she particularly enjoyed a “lively panel discussion” in which she and Winokur took part, along with several scientists, leading to active engagement with the audience. “Art, as opposed to reading a newspaper or looking at a graph, can hit the viewer on an emotional level and help them connect,” she commented

Her work is on display at other settings as well. The National Academy of Sciences recently bought pieces from her Elegy series for their permanent collection.

The public will have other opportunities to see exhibits of Burko’s work. She will take part in an exhibit Polaris: Northern Explorations in Contemporary Art at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Running from January 11 to April 30, 2017, it will present works about the Arctic from 19th century explorers to the present, emphasizing the rapid pace of environmental change in the region.  It will include Burko’s Morning Sail 2, 1 photograph of a recently-calved iceberg off Greenland.

Morning Sail 2 (source: Burko)
Morning Sail 2 (source: Burko)

Later in 2017, she will have a solo show Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives, Paintings and Photographs at the Walton Art Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In an email to GlacierHub, Burko described this exhibit, opening on May 4 and continuing to July 15,  as “my most important solo show.”

Readers who are interested in learning more about Burko’s work can see an interview with GlacierHub and a discussion of her recent solo show at Cindy Lisica Gallery in Houston.

Photo Friday: A Day of Fieldwork in the Italian Alps

The Italian paleoclimatologist Paolo Gabrielli, at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at the Ohio State University, conducted a day of field research earlier this month at Mt. Ortles in the South Tirol in the Italian Alps, working with 8 colleagues from the Universities of Venice, Pavia, Padua and the Province of Bolzano. These images were all taken on that day, showing the construction of a snowpit, the collection of samples, and the closing of the pit. They document how rapidly the weather can change in the Alps, with clouds moving in quickly.

Gabrielli described his research to GlacierHub in a recent interview. He wrote, “The primary goal of our scientific program on Mt. Orles (3905 m, Eatern Italian Alps) is to identify interactions between atmospheric warming and environmental changes in the ecosystems and human society from the beginning of the Holocene to the current warm period.” He indicated that the ice cores provide data on air temperature, human activities such as industrialization and fire, and ecosystems (plant composition, soils). His team examines many elements of the ice, including stable isotopes of the ice itself, ions, dust, trace elements, pollen, black carbon and organic compounds. He indicated that his research has been funded by NSF and the Province of Bolzano.

Gabrielli added “More information about our project and international partners can be obtained at and from our paper under discussion at The Cryosphere

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