Roundup: Geopolitics in South Asia, “Last Chance Tourism,” and Antarctic Fjords

Glacier Geopolitics In South Asia

From the Daily Times: “India threatens Pakistan to stop its water flow from the Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej [Rivers] to Pakistan. In response Pakistan said that they are not concerned if New Delhi diverts its water from eastern rivers. India has already withdrawn the most favored nation (MFN) status to Pakistan and increased the duty import up to 200 percent. This all is due to the Pulwama attacks in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), where a suicide bomber killed more then 40 CRPF troops on 14th of February.”

Read more about the geopolitical dispute here.

“Last Chance Tourism”

From the Annals of Tourism Research: “With reference to virtue ethics and ethics of care, this paper discusses ethical challenges of tourism consumption and the last chance tourism marketplace … findings extend current discourses on last chance tourism by situating visitors’ lack of care for climate threatened destinations as a response to a tourism market that normalizes the consumption of socio-ecological decline.”

Read more about “last chance tourism” in the research article “Place stewardship among last chance tourists” here.

Paradise Bay, Antarctica (Source: Michael Morris, Flickr)

Biological and Optical Properties of Glacial Meltwater in Antarctic Fjord System

From Plos One: “As the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) region responds to a warmer climate, the impacts of glacial meltwater on the Southern Ocean are expected to intensify. The Antarctic Peninsula fjord system offers an ideal system to understand meltwater’s properties, providing an extreme in the meltwater’s spatial gradient from the glacio-marine boundary to the WAP continental shelf. Glacial meltwater discharge in Arctic and Greenland fjords is typically characterized as relatively lower temperature, fresh and with high turbidity.”

Learn more about Antarctic fjord systems and the associated biological and optical properties here.

Hovgaard Island, Antarctica (Source: Steven-ch, Flickr)


Read More on GlacierHub:

Glacier Countries Condemn Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

An Impossible First: Colin O’Brady Completes Solo Trek Across Antarctica

Large Populations of Jellyfish Found in West Antarctic Fjords


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Increased Focus on Mountains in the IPCC’s AR6 Report

On January 20th through the 25th, over 250 climate experts gathered in Durban, South Africa for Working Group II’s First Lead Author Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). Working Group II, which evaluates climate change-associated vulnerabilities, impacts, and adaptation, will feature a “Cross-Chapter Paper” on mountains. These papers are new features for both Working Group II and the AR6 Synthesis Report.

The paper on mountains will include authors from several chapters within Working Group II. The authors come from several different mountainous countries such as Switzerland, Nepal, India, Austria, Russia, Ecuador, and the UK.

“It’s really good to see mountains receiving serious attention in the 6th assessment cycle of the IPCC, with the 1st Lead Author Meeting in Durban laying a good foundation,” Philippus Wester told Mountain Research Initiative, a collaborative research network that focuses on mountain regions and sustainable development.

The IPCC’s most recent climate report, Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), brought startling news about the imminent threats of climate change.

Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” state the authors of the special report.

A 1.5°C temperature increase will likely lead to an increased frequency in extreme temperatures and an increase in frequency, intensity, and amount of heavy rain in many regions. Temperature increases will likely lead to an increase in drought intensity as well. Additionally, glaciers and ice sheets will likely melt faster, and glacial extent is likely to decrease in most mountainous areas.

The IPCC, established in 1988, was founded by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization in order to summarize and report research on climate change, risk assessments, and policy recommendations. The IPCC is well known for its collaborative assessments on the science of climate change.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which was published in 2014, cited human influence and greenhouse gas emissions as the main drivers of climate change. Climate conversations for the IPCC’s next Synthesis Report, AR6 have already begun. AR6 will feature written contributions from each of the three Working Groups as well as a complete, Synthesis Report.

Comments from Working Group II & Cross-Chapter Paper Authors

Co-lead authors of the cross-chapter paper are Carolina Adler, from the Mountain Research Initiative, and Philippus Wester, from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). ICIMOD is known for its mountain research advocacy and focus in the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

Adler, who’s also lead author of Chapter 17, “Decision-making options for managing risk,” said that AR6 will have “greater emphasis and focus on the solutions space to the observed and projected impacts of climate change, particularly on adaptation” and increased “focus on mountains as a specific geographic context in which to assess climate change.”

Working Group II authors, Ben Orlove and Erin Coughlan (Source: Ben Orlove)

GlacierHub asked report authors Christian Huggel and Veruska Muccione, both from the University of Zurich, about their thoughts on the Working Group II report and AR6’s overall progress thus far.

Huggel, lead author of Chapter 12, “Central and South America,” and an author of the chapter on mountains, said: “Because [AR6] is more solution oriented, I think we will need to go deeper also in non-peer-reviewed literature. For example, in adaptation, there is now a rich experience in many regions of the world, but this is only documented in the peer-reviewed literature in a limited way.”

He adds: “ I also think that we will address more than in other reports problems of more complex nature such as cascading risks, i.e. not just risks from e.g. a hurricane, but how such hazards combine with human systems, and how it could bring human systems to failure.”

Some of the Working Group II authors brainstorming during the Working Group II’s First Lead Author Meeting (Source: Ben Orlove)

Muccione, lead author of Chapter 13 “Europe” and an author of the mountains chapter, reveals that AR6 will feature IPCC research yet to be published.

She said: “The three IPCC special assessments, e.g. the SR15 already published, and the other two assessments (SROCC and SRCCL) scheduled to be published later this year make up an important body of research for the AR6.” The SROCC, or the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and the SRCCL, or the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, will both be finalized in September 2019.

Working Group II’s report, as well as the AR6 Synthesis Report, are still in the beginning stages, but significant progress is clearly underway. Working Group II’s Second Lead Author Meeting will take place in July in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Looking ahead, the IPCC’s three Working Group reports will begin to be published in 2021. The AR6 Synthesis Report will follow in 2022.

Read More on GlacierHub:

New IPCC Report Offers New Data, Stern Warnings, Hope

Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Outlines Potentially Dire Impacts of Climate Change

What Glacier State Congressmembers Think of a Green New Deal

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Roundup: A Milestone in Cooperation, Early Warning Systems, and an Avalanche in Peru

International Glacier Monitoring Turns 125

From the World Glacier Monitoring Service: “In 2019, we will celebrate the 125 year jubilee of internationally coordinated glacier monitoring jointly with IACS during the IUGG General Assembly in Montreal, Canada, and with our National Correspondents during the WGMS General Assembly. The General Assembly will be split into three regional meetings which allows us to focus on regional challenges and networks and to cut in half the related carbon footprint.”

Read more about the upcoming meetings here.

Improving the Efficiency of Early Warning Systems

From “Five Approaches to Build Functional Early Warning Systems,” a report published by the United Nations Development Program: “This publication aims to support UNDP practitioners and partners (international organizations, nongov­ernmental organizations, governments, as well as civil society organizations) in the process of setting up or improving early warning systems. Distinct from the many existing step-by-step guides and checklists, this publica­tion identifies targeted interventions which can boost the efficiency and effectiveness of early warning systems in five key areas.”

Read more about the UNDP’s recommendations here.

UNDP Logo (Source: EuroClio)

Avalanche on Pucaranra Mountain

From the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio: “This Tuesday, an avalanche was recorded in the Pucaranra mountain, which fell on the Palcacocha lagoon and partially affected two of the siphons that control the level of the same, in the district of Independencia, in the province of Huaraz, Áncash region. […] The event was recorded on video by the surveillance system of the lagoon, implemented by the National Institute of Glacier and Mountain Ecosystem Research (Inaigem). In the images it is observed that the block of ice generated waves, which were retained by the safety dam of 7 meters high.” (Translation via Google Translate)

Read more about the avalanche here.

Lake Arhuaycocha, Peru (Source: Edubucher)


Read more on GlacierHub: 

Climate Change Behind More Frequent & Powerful Avalanches in Alaska

An Impossible First: Colin O’Brady Completes Solo Trek Across Antarctica

Flood Early Warning Systems Leave Women Vulnerable

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Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Outlines Potentially Dire Impacts of Climate Change

Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region are projected to shrink by one-third by the end of the century even if average global temperature rise is held to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Age levels, according to the authors of a new comprehensive report, The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

Glacier melt of that magnitude has widespread implications. Nearly two billion people live within the 10 river basins that make up the HKH region, and food produced there is consumed by 3 billion people.

The HKH region is green filled. Major, expansive network of river basins that includes the Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers. (Source: Introduction to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment)

The report is likely the most comprehensive climate assessment of the area: It includes input from over 300 experts, researchers, and policymakers. 

The HKH region, which spans 3.5 million square kilometers, across eight countries, contains two of the world’s highest peaks, Mount Everest and K2

“This is a climate crisis you have not heard of,” Philippus Wester, a lead author of the report, told The New York Times. “Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world’s most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events.”

Key Climate Findings

Factors such as climate change, globalization, human conflict, urbanization, and tourism are quickly altering the HKH region, the assessment authors say.

Warming in the HKH region is strongly attributed to anthropogenic greenhouse gases. The authors say that if average, global temperature rise is 1.5°C, the HKH region will see an additional 0.3°C temperature rise. 

In other words: The region could warm as much as 1.8°C even under ambitious efforts to limit human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. And the northwestern Himalayas and Karakoraman expansive mountain range of 207,000 square kilometers that extends from eastern Afghanistan to southern China, could experience at least a 2.2°C temperature rise.

Karakoram Highway with Rakaposhi peak featured in the frame (Source: Shozib ali, Wikimedia Commons)

This warming could lead to increased glacial melt, biodiversity loss, and decreased water availability, the authors say. The Tibetan Plateau, which lies south of the Himalayas, will likely face decreased snow cover as temperatures rise. Elevation-dependent warming is a major contributor to the geographic changes in this region.

Other future climate changes include increased frequency of extremely warm days and decreased frequency of extreme cold ones.

The State of the HKH Cryosphere

The Hindu Kush Himalaya cryosphere is comprised of glaciers, snow, ice caps, ice sheets, and permafrost. Future temperature changes will influence the timing and magnitude of meltwater runoff. The report’s authors find that snow-covered areas will decrease and snowline elevations will rise.

Bhagirathi Peaks, Garhwal Himalaya (Source: Richard Haley, Flickr)


Loss of glacial volume in the region will increase runoff and the size of glacial lakes, resulting in a higher potential for Glacier Lake Outburst Floods, or GLOFs, and other hazards. Thawing permafrost is also expected to continue, resulting in the weakening of mountain slopes and peaks.

Messages to Policymakers

“Climate change impacts in the mountains of the HKH are already substantive. Increased climate variability is already affecting water availability, ecosystem services, and agricultural production, and extreme weather is causing flash floods, landslides, and debris flow,” according to the assessment’s authors.

Without immediate mitigation and adaptation policies, they conclude that the region’s glaciers—and therefore Hindu Kush Himalaya residents—face extraordinary threats.

Read More on GlacierHub:

Mapping and Monitoring Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

Ice Loss, Gravity, and Asian Glacier Slowdown

Photo Friday: Marc Foggin & the Mountains of Central Asia

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Roundup: Collapsing Glaciers, Invertebrates, and Resilient Mountains

Collapsing Glaciers in The Himalaya–Hindu Kush mountain ranges & the Tibetan Plateau

From Nature: “Tibetan communities are dealing with the impacts of collapsing glaciers. In October 2018, debris dammed the Yarlung Tsangpo River, which forms the headwater of the Brahmaputra, threatening areas as far afield as Bangladesh with flooding.”

Read more about how collapsing glaciers are affecting Asian communities and their water supply here.

Tibetan Plateau (Source: Andrew and Annemarie, Flickr)

Benthic Communities in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

From Ecological Applications: ” In this study, we describe contrasting responses to an apparent regime shift [in food particle size] of two very different benthic communities in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. We compared species-specific patterns of benthic invertebrate abundance and size between the west (low productivity) and east (higher productivity) sides of McMurdo Sound across multiple decades.”

Read more about the changes to benthic invertebrates in Antarctica here.

McMurdo Sound, Antarctica (U.S. Department of State, Flickr)

Resilient Mountain Solutions in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

From UNFCCC: “Research at ICIMOD has revealed that temperatures in the mountains have increased significantly faster than the global average, and are projected to increase by 1–2°C on average by 2050. Precipitation patterns and water availability are likely to change.”

Read more about Resilient Mountain Solutions such as vulnerability reduction and improved ecosystem services here.

Hindu Kush Range, Pakistan (Source: Akbar Asif22, Wikimedia Commons)


RELATED: South Georgia Island’s Novosilski Glacier Is Retreating Rapidly

RELATED: Powerful Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Himalayas

RELATED: Ice Loss, Gravity, and Asian Glacier Slowdown

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An Impossible First: Colin O’Brady Completes Solo Trek Across Antarctica

On the 26th of December, 33-year-old American Colin O’Brady skied across an imaginary finish line on the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of the Leverett Glacier.

Colin O’Brady completed his historic trek across Antarctica on the Ross Ice Shelf. (Source: Alan Light, Flickr)

Upon reaching the glacier, O’Brady became the first person to cross Antarctica unaided by wind. Borge Ousland was the first to transverse the continent using a kite in 1997. Others have attempted this 932-mile journey unaided, but all have failed. 

O’Brady began his extreme trek at the Messner Start on the Ronne Ice Shelf, about a mile away from his friend and fellow competitor, Louis Rudd, a British Army captain and adventurer well known for previous expeditions on Greenland and Antarctica. The two began their race across the the continent on November 3rd. O’Brady completed the tremendous feat 54 days later. Rudd followed two days behind.

O’Brady’s Antarctic expedition began at the Ronne Ice Shelf, crossed through the South Pole, and ended on the Ross Ice Shelf (Source: Jeandré du Toit, Wikimedia Commons)

Even with summer conditions in Antarctica, the southern continent remains a daunting setting. The two explorers faced brutal storms, high-speed winds, and chilling temperatures on their route. O’Brady even experienced frostnip, the precursor to frostbite, on his nose and cheeks due to the brutal conditions. Not to mention, they each pulled heavy sleds with tents and supplies weighing about 375 pounds. O’Brady and Rudd had no human contact or supply restock throughout their expedition. O’Brady used social media and a satellite phone, however, to keep in touch with the outside world. The athlete credits some of his success to his expedition manager and wife, Jenna Besaw, for her support and guidance.

“Despite how hard it is to step outside of your comfort zone, the magic of life and growth happens when you point your compass toward the limitless horizon of your dreams and commit to the journey,” O’Brady wrote in an Instagram post. Throughout his expedition, O’Brady frequently turned to Instagram to keep his curious followers informed about his whereabouts, daily struggles, and brushes with beauty.

The 932-mile journey included a detour through the South Pole, which O’Brady reached on day 40 and Rudd on day 41. It was a close race between the two explorers throughout the journey. But on Christmas morning, O’Brady completed the final 77.54 miles in a single, 32-hour-long push to the finish line. O’Brady called it his “Antarctica Ultramarathon.” He wrote on Instagram: “I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey.”

View this post on Instagram

Day 54: FINISH LINE!!! I did it! The Impossible First ✅. 32 hours and 30 minutes after leaving my last camp early Christmas morning, I covered the remaining ~80 miles in one continuous “Antarctica Ultramarathon” push to the finish line. The wooden post in the background of this picture marks the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, where Antarctica’s land mass ends and the sea ice begins. As I pulled my sled over this invisible line, I accomplished my goal: to become the first person in history to traverse the continent of Antarctica coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided. While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced. I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey. I’m delirious writing this as I haven’t slept yet. There is so much to process and integrate and there will be many more posts to acknowledge the incredible group of people who supported this project. But for now, I want to simply recognize my #1 who I, of course, called immediately upon finishing. I burst into tears making this call. I was never alone out there. @jennabesaw you walked every step with me and guided me with your courage and strength. WE DID IT!! We turned our dream into reality and proved that The Impossible First is indeed possible. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on

O’Brady’s monstrous feat, detailed in a series of New York Times pieces written by Adam Skolnick, is one of immense courage, physical and mental strength, and perseverance. He will go down in history for his seemingly impossible first—traversing alone and unassisted what is possibly the most treacherous landscape on Earth.


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Photo Friday: Alpine Tourism in the Alps

This week’s Photo Friday features personal images from GlacierHub reader and avid skier Amanda Maughan. Her photographs include The Matterhorn, the Zermatt Ski Region, and the Jungfrau Region. Another notable travel destination is the Great Aletsch Glacier, which is the largest glacier in the Alps. Between 60 to 80 million people visit the Alps annually, according to the Climate Change Post. Tourists often travel to the Alps to capture its beauty, for sport, and for unique cultural experiences.

Zermatt ski trail with The Matterhorn in the distance (Source: Amanda Maughan)
Arial shot of the Alps (Source: Amanda Maughan)


Jungfrau Region (Source: Amanda Maughan)
The Matterhorn Glacier in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland (Source: Amanda Maughan)
Jungfrau Region (Source: Amanda Maughan)
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Video of the Week: Innovative Drone Soars High in the Peruvian Andes

This week’s Video of the Week features newly developed drone technology that allows scientists to capture high-resolution video footage and photographs at peak elevations in the Peruvian Andes. The lightweight drone can reach up to 6000 meters above sea level, which was once unreachable due to the air’s thinness. The creator of this innovative drone is scientist Oliver Wigmore from the University of Colorado. Wigmore uses his drone footage to create detailed models of glacial surfaces and document how glaciers are changing over time.

Discover more glacier news at GlacierHub:

Glacial Rivers Release Mercury into High Arctic Watersheds

Powerful Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Himalayas

Glaciers and Reefs with Diane Burko

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Powerful Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in the Himalayas

Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) are sudden, fast flowing releases of glacial lake water that move downslope as a result of dam failures. Glacial lakes are either moraine-dammed or ice marginal-dammed. GLOFs are triggered by the buildup of water pressure, ice and rock avalanches, earthquakes, erosion, and other natural disruptions. As water rushes downslope, it picks up rock, mud, and debris, endangering people, infrastructure, fields and livestock in its path. Recent research, published in Landslides, provides new understanding of GLOFs by studying their trigger mechanisms and disaster impacts.

Peaks of the Upper Barun Valley, Nepal (Source: Roger Nix/Flickr).

The research group on the recent study, led by Alton Byers, reconstructed a destructive GLOF that occurred on 20 April 2017 in the Upper Barun Valley, Nepal. The Langmale GLOF, as it was called, was rebuilt using remote sensing, field measurements, modeling, personal testimony and video footage. Results revealed a peak velocity between 4 to 8 m/s, the scale of the flood channel, and sand/silt/clay discharge estimates.

Byers and his team discovered the GLOF was triggered by a massive rockfall from Saldim Peak, which led to a chain reaction of events. The rockfall forcefully hit an unnamed glacier hundreds of meters below. This resulted in an avalanche of snow and ice, plummeting down into Langmale glacial lake, causing a tsunami-like wave to form and topple over terminal and left lateral moraines. The enormous wave then tumbled downslope, causing immense damage and rearrangement of the local landscape, according to the researchers. The Langmale GLOF carved into the land, ripped vegetation from its roots, and carried boulders thousands of feet. Imagine a landscape which once supported local livelihoods, now covered with mud and debris.  

Upper Barun Valley, Nepal, where the results of the Langmale GLOF are visible on the lower left (Source: Roger Nix/Flickr).

Researchers like Byers who study GLOFs face substantial limitations due to the remoteness and harsh weather of high mountain regions. They also face difficulties in terms of financing their research projects. The Langmale GLOF research group was able to overcome these obstacles in order to analyze the source, cause, and impacts of the Upper Barun Valley GLOF event. The research group highlighted the growing necessity for the implementation of early warning systems and urged for increased risk management and field studies of GLOFs.

How GLOFs Impact Local People

Although GLOFs often take place in secluded mountain regions, local people are also affected. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the Langmale GLOF, but the researchers report that four community buildings and six bridges were demolished. In addition, agricultural land was completely covered and tourism to the Upper Barun Valley suffered.

The Langmale research group reported growing concerns of local people due to the danger posed by GLOFs and associated economic tolls. A YouTube video captured the Langmale GLOF, its sheer velocity, and the destructive aftermath.

“Settlements in the Himalayan region are mostly situated near to the river bank or within the high flood plain,” shared Finu Shrestha, a research associate at ICIMOD“Communities living downstream of a glacial lake are the first ones who get threatened and face the potential damage if a GLOF happens. GLOF events produce huge impacts in the downstream [area] causing loss of lives and livelihood, damage to the settlements, roads, tracks and trails, bridges (wooden, suspension, motorable and highway bridges), and hydropower projects,” she told GlacierHub. 

Glacial meltwater flowing through the snow in the Himalayas in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand (Source: Sharada Prasad CS/Creative Commons).

It is clear that humans are negatively impacted by GLOFs, but are humans impacting the frequency of GLOFs too?

The Langmale research group commented that hundreds of glacial lakes have formed in the Nepal Himalayas in recent decades due to the rapid glacial recession caused by the warming climate. An increase in glacial lakes could lead to increased frequency of GLOFs. Due to projected temperature increases, GLOF frequency is only expected to increase in upcoming decades, according to additional research published in Cryosphere.


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Photo Friday: GlacierHub’s Top Stories of 2018

This week’s Photo Friday highlights images from GlacierHub’s top 10 most viewed stories of 2018. Our top posts cover a range of topics from weather reporting on Mt. Kilimanjaro to photojournalism in Iceland. Some stories delve into the retelling of scientific events while others recount interviews with researchers.

Greatest Snowfall on Kilimanjaro Glaciers in Years

This post details the numerous reports of snowfall on Mt. Kilimanjaro last March, which in some cases prevented climbers from reaching the summit. The first week of March brought a net snow accumulation of nearly 50 cm to the Northern Icefield. While the long rains often begin during this month, snowfall this time around appears to be somewhat exceptional.

Two snowy views of Mount Kilimanjaro from the Moshi area (Source: Doug Hardy/Kiboice).


Massive Impact Crater Discovered Beneath Greenland Glacier

The Hiawatha Impact Crater is among the largest impact craters ever discovered on Earth, as well as the northernmost and first to be located under ice. The discovery of this impact crater in remote northwestern Greenland might have significant implications for the most recent sudden climate change event in Earth’s history. Click here to read more about this substantial crater.

A fragment of the Agpalilik meteorite, outside of the Geological Museum in Copenhagen (Source: Mads Bødker/Flickr).


Leaving No Stone Unturned: An Interview with Yellowstone’s Ice Patch Archaeologist

Craig M. Lee is a renowned researcher in the field of ice patch archaeology. In an interview with GlacierHub, Lee explains more about his work at INSTAAR and his recent video on the Greater Yellowstone region.

Lee out in the field at Yellowstone National Park (Source: Craig M. Lee).


Reconstructing Norway’s Oldest Garment: The Tunic of Lendbreen

On August 4, 2011, the upper edges of Lendbreen Glacier at the Lomseggen mountain in Breheimen National Park in Norway became exposed. Near the melting ice, archaeologists discovered a well-preserved 1,700-year-old tunic, the oldest piece of clothing found in Norway and one of only a few surviving garments from the 1st millennium A.D. in all of Europe. This post details the discovery of the tunic, its history, and its restoration.

Iceland’s Vanishing Beauty: An Interview with Michael Kienitz

Michael Kienitz, a photojournalist based in Wisconsin, shares his experience with vanishing glaciers in an exhibition entitled “Iceland’s Vanishing Beauty.” This exhibition is a culmination of Kienitz’s five-year work collecting images from southeast Iceland and captures some of the ice caves and glacial formations in the region’s glacial tongues. In the interview with GlacierHub, Kienitz explains the process of documenting the photos and videos for his upcoming exhibition.

Ice cave visitor examining a moulon at Vatnajokull National Park southeast Iceland (Souce: Michael Kienitz).


Other Stories from GlacierHub’s Most Viewed of 2018 List:

What the Yak Herders of Northern Bhutan Are Saying About Global Warming

Photo Friday: An Antique Bicycle Emerges from Melting Italian Glacier

North Atlantic Icebergs: Hubris, Disaster, and Safeguards

Still Unresolved, Saga of Jumbo Glacier Resort Heads Back to Canadian Court

Highest Plants on Earth Discovered Near Glacier


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Why Mountains Matter: International Mountain Day 2018

International Mountain Day, celebrated at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 11 December, encouraged collaborative talks regarding the protection of mountain ecosystems, sustainable development and international cooperation. This year’s event was hosted by Kyrgyzstan, a country whose landscape is 95 percent mountainous, according to Kyrgyzstan’s Permanent Representative, Mirgul Moldoisaeva.

The Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan during summer 2006 (Source: PKNirvana/Creative Commons).

Attendees at the International Mountain Day side event included representatives from mountainous countries, officials from UN agencies, and students.

Austrian Permanent Representative Jan Kickert emphasized to the audience that mountains will see a great deal of change over the next few decades. The ambassador added that mountain conservation is a “crucial role of all of humanity,” and as developed nations, it is “our job to help mountainous [developing] countries.”

International Mountain Day Presentations 

Andorra representatives Joan Lopez and Landry Riba started off the day’s discussions. Riba stated that the average altitude in Andorra is 1,996 meters, making the majority of the region mountainous. Climatology is a dynamic factor affecting agricultural activity in Andorra; livestock and tobacco are two main agricultural topics of concern. To withstand current and future climate variability, Andorra will move toward resilient thinking in its agricultural sector through action planning, joint efforts with other sectors, and crop diversification and research.

International Mountain Day attendees engaged in discussion (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/Flickr).

Ben Orlove, a professor at Columbia University and GlacierHub editor, spoke at the event and referenced research documenting the intensified rate of warming in mountain environments. Orlove discussed the impacts of glacial retreat on water availability, glacial lake outburst floods, and evolving indigenous traditions. Orlove stated that there is a “strong call for adaptation of mountain communities.” He expressed the value in learning from indigenous peoples in order to prepare mountain communities and to adapt to a changing climate.

George Grusso, an FAO representative, explained that “what happens in the mountains has an impact on the rest of the world.” He emphasized that people around the world rely on mountains for a number of products, including tea, rice, silk, lentils, beans and coffee.

Left to right: Samuel Elzinga (Utah Valley University), Andrew Jensen (Utah Valley University), Ambassador Blais (Canada), Joan Lopez (Andorra), Yoko Watanabe (UNDP), Ambassador Kickert (Austria), Ambassador Moldoisaeva (Kyrgyzstan), Ben Orlove (Columbia University, GlacierHub editor), Carla Mucavi (Moderator), Landry Riba (Andorra), and Giorgio Grussu (FAO) (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/Flickr).

During the event, Grusso announced the Mountain Partnership/FAO and UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme which aims to improve livelihoods of mountain communities by helping producers obtain fair pricing for their goods. Yoko Watanabe, a UNDP representative, added that the program is ongoing in 24 countries and in over 30 mountain ecosystem-specific projects.

Andrew Jensen and Samuel Elzinga, student representatives from Utah Valley University, spoke about the Utah International Mountain Forum, which promotes youth involvement in the environmental movement, water conservation, recycling and paper consumption reduction.

#MountainsMatter: Key Messages

#MountainsMatter was the theme of this year’s International Mountain Day. The hashtag’s purpose aimed to spread awareness around rates of temperature increase in mountain regions throughout the world and emphasize how change to mountains will influence everyone.

Mountains cover roughly 22 percent of the earth’s land surfaces and provide between 60-80 percent of all freshwater resources, according to UN Facts & Figures. Mountains matter to a variety of people for a variety of different reasons, and more people will continue to be affected as temperatures rise and mountain glaciers retreat.

Click on the FAO video below to learn more about why #MountainsMatter.

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Swiss Alp Ice Core Record Reveals Explosive Past

Ice core analyses are extremely useful tools in understanding the planet’s paleoclimate record. A recent article in Science details the explosive findings of an ice core sample from the Colle Gnifetti Glacier of the Monte Rosa Massif in the Swiss Alps.

Monte Rosa Massif (Source: Giovanni Novara/Flickr).

The Colle Gnifetti ice core exposes year 536, when an Icelandic volcano violently erupted, spewing high quantities of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, other gases, and ash into the atmosphere. The eruption created extensive smog and cooler temperatures, which limited sunlight and led to complete crop failures. As a result, immense famine spread throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The ice core record provides over 2000 years of climate variation, revealing volcanic explosions, massive storms, and elevated lead levels of the past. Records indicate that two additional, massive volcanic eruptions occurred in years 540 and 547, cooling down the planet by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius for several years.

Two climbers atop Monte Rosa (Source: Enrico Pighetti/Flickr).

It’s also important to note that the source of the 536 volcanic eruption is disputed among researchers. Some say more proof is necessary to be certain regarding the Icelandic origin.

536-545: Coldest Decade in the last 2000 Years

In the stratosphere, sulfate aerosols, tiny solid or liquid particles containing sulfuric acid, reflect incoming solar radiation back into space, lowering temperatures around the world. Sulfate aerosols can also lead to atmospheric ozone depletion. The 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature decrease led to various hardships documented in written accounts throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Byzantine historian Procopius recorded these hardships, writing, “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.”

Smoke plume path from the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland, following a 2010 eruption. Image shows the magnitude of the wind (Source: NASA Earth Observatory).

His account refers to the volcanic smog of gas and dust that spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere for the first 18 months following the explosion. Volcanic smog is carried by strong, quickly movings winds like jet streams and may lead to eye, skin and respiratory irritation.

Kyle Harper, author of “Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire,” told GlacierHub, “The 536 volcano (and the even larger tropical eruption that followed in 540) caused immediate and major impacts. Harvest failure and subsistence crisis followed. A few years after, the first pandemic of bubonic plague erupted.”

Due to environmental extremes during this time, we can infer that it wasn’t the greatest time to be alive.

Explosive Past Also Recorded in Finland Tree-Ring Isotopes

Evidence of the volcanic explosions in years 536 and 540 are also found in Scots pine tree-ring isotope analyses, according to a 2018 research article published in Nature Scientific Reports. Due to the volcanic smog following the explosions, reductions in available light led to decreases of carbon isotopes within the trees.

Scots pine tree in Kolari, Lapland, Finland (Kari Pihlaviita/Flickr).

This steep decline of carbon isotopes occurred due to a reduction in photosynthesis rates and lessened intercellular gas exchange.

Helama et al state, “Our set of stable carbon isotope records from subfossil tree rings demonstrates a strong negative excursion[carbon isotopes] in AD 536 and 541–544. Modern data from these sites show that carbon isotope variations are driven by solar radiation.”

Both Swiss Alp ice cores and Finland tree-rings document the explosive volcanic eruptions of 536 and 540. But who knows what other paleo records have yet to be unearthed or overturned that may uncover more of our planet’s mysterious past.

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