Roundup: Iceberg-Tsunami Dynamics, Backcountry Avalanche Risk Rises, and Cruikshank Receives Prestigious Award

Study Aims to Better Understand Iceberg-Tsunami Dynamics

Iceberg calving can create powerful waves when large chunks of ice fall from glaciers into the ocean. A recent study conducted 66 experiments to better understand the features of iceberg calving to determine iceberg-tsunami strength and parameters.

Read the story by Elza Bouhassira on GlacierHub here.

The pool used by the researchers during the experiments. In the image, a gravity-dominated experiment is being conducted (Source: Figure 2/Heller et al).

Crowded Backcountry Ski Slopes Increase Risk of Skiers Endangering Each Other

Avalanche risk is on the rise as more people enter backcountry alpine terrain. A new study seeking to quantify the risk to multi-party avalanches hopes to raise awareness and provoke discussion.

Read the story by Grennan Milliken on GlacierHub here.

A skier during a run down Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington State. (Credit: National Park Service)

Cruikshank Awarded Polar Knowledge Canada’s 2019 Northern Science Award

From the Polar Knowledge Canada press release: “Polar Knowledge Canada is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2019 Northern Science Award is Dr. Julie Cruikshank. The award was presented at the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting on December 5, 2019, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Dr. Cruikshank, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, has a long and distinguished record of documenting the oral histories and life stories of Athapaskan and Tlingit elders, and exploring Yukon First Nations’ systems of narrative and knowledge. Her work, built on a foundation of respectful relationships, has helped Yukon First Nations recognize and honour the strengths of their cultural traditions, and has brought new insight into the nature of history and the interplay of different knowledge systems. Yukon Indigenous governments regularly draw on Dr. Cruikshank’s work and her knowledge.”

Read the story published by Polar Knowledge Canada here.

Dr. Julie Cruikshank (Source: University of British Columbia).

Roundup: MELTDOWN Visualizing Climate Change, Foodweb Complexity of High Mountain Lakes, and Melting Swiss Glaciers

MELTDOWN Visualizing Climate Change by Project Pressure

The Horniman Museum in London is hosting “MELTDOWN: Visualizing the Climate Crisis” by Project Pressure, an exhibition which emphasizes the importance of glaciers in a scientific, illustrative and dramatic way.” The show features work from every relevant continent, leading the viewer on a journey in three chapters––The Importance of Glaciers, Current Issues and Meltdown Consequences.”

“Since 2008 the climate change charity Project Pressure has been commissioning world-renowned artists to conduct expeditions to document changes to the world’s vanishing glaciers, the consequences for billions of people, and efforts made to limit melting.” The exhibition runs from 23 November 2019 until 12 January 2020.

In 1963 Lewis glacier ran past the guides’ hut, taken from the series ‘When I Am Laid in Earth’ by Simon Norfolk Lewis Glacier, Kenya 2014 (Source: Simon Norfolk/Project Pressure).

Food Web Complexity of High Mountain Lakes is Largely Affected by Glacial Retreat

From the abstract: “High mountain lakes provide essential ecosystem services and have a high conservation value. Therefore, understanding how glacier retreat will affect their ecological functioning and water quality is crucial. Here, we tested how shallow high mountain lakes having different glacial influences differ in their abiotic main features and food web structure using a multiple ecological indicator approach.”

Read the study here.

Simplified food web network in a high mountain lake showing all the hypothetical directional trophic links (Source: Tiberti et al)

Melting Swiss Glaciers to Fuel Conflicts Over Water

“Switzerland is set to lose an important water reservoir as the glaciers continue to melt, affecting not only the agricultural sector and hydropower production, but also transport on Europe’s main waterways.”

Read the comprehensive story of Swiss glaciers on SwissInfo.ch here.

Switzerland’s Rhône Glacier (Source: WikiCommons).

Read More on GlacierHub:

Last Remaining Glaciers in the Pacific Will Soon Melt Away

IMD Marked with Event at United Nations Headquarters

Photo Friday: A Southern Patagonia Glacier from Space

Photo Friday: A Southern Patagonia Glacier from Space

One undeniable upside of the social media age is the sharing of bird’s eye view content by the inhabitants of the International Space Station. In mid-November, astronaut Christina Koch, who has been in space since March 14 of this year, shared this stunningly serene image of a glacier in southern Patagonia on her personal Twitter account:

Users identified the ice body as Perito Moreno, a 97-square mile glacier in the southern Patagonia ice field. The glacier is one of 48 in the region, which comprises the third largest reservoir of fresh water in the world. Perito Moreno Glacier is named after Argentine’s Francisco Moreno, an explorer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The nickname ‘Perito’ means ‘expert’ or ‘specialist’.

One month before the photo was captured, Koch and Jessica Meir became the first women to participate in an all-female spacewalk. According to NASA, Koch’s career prior to becoming an Astronaut spanned two general areas: space science instrument development and remote scientific field engineering. Koch has been sharing her experience openly:

On August 27, Koch shared this image of the SpaceX Dragon flying over the Canadian Rockies. Several glaciers are visible on the right side of the photo (Source: Christina Koch/Instagram).

Koch is no stranger to the cryosphere. From her NASA bio: “Koch became a Research Associate in the United States Antarctic Program from 2004 to 2007. This included a year long stay with a winter-over at the Admunsen-Scott South Pole Station and a season at Palmer Station. While in this role, she served as a member of the Firefighting Teams and Ocean and Glacier Search and Rescue Teams…In 2010, Koch returned to remote scientific field work with tours including Palmer Station in Antarctica and multiple winter seasons at Summit Station in Greenland.”

One Twitter user replied to Koch’s image with a ground perspective of the same glacier:

Read More on GlacierHub:

Observing Glacier Calving through Time-Lapse Imagery and Surface Water Waves

Photo Friday: Perito Moreno Glacier

Photo Friday: Ice Collapse at Argentina Glacier

Video of the Week: ICESat-2 Scans Glaciated Volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest

In this week’s Video of the Week, Polar Science Center glaciologist Ben Smith shares results from NASA’s new polar satellite, ICESat-2, which made a pass over two glaciated volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest; Mount Baker and Mount Adams. The satellite, which launched in September 2018, carries a laser altimeter that detects individual photons, allowing scientists to measure the elevation of ice sheets, sea ice, forests and more in unprecedented detail. Smith, who is also a professor at the University of Washington, said it will be a few years before the polar orbiting satellite passes over the region, providing an opportunity to measure the glaciers’ change in surface altitude again.

Read More On GlacierHub:

ICESat-2 Hackweek Tackles the Big Data of Earth’s Glaciers

Photo Friday: Mount Baker Is Letting Off Some Steam

Video of the Week: Take a 360° Tour of Mount Baker

Roundup: AGU 100, The Third Pole, and Why Lake Superior is Rising

Latest Cryosphere Research Presented at AGU Centennial

GlacierHub’s senior editor attended the American Geophysical Union’s 100th meeting––combing the centennial gathering for groundbreaking cryosphere research. AGU 100 hosted more than 27,000 attendees––with an equal number of submitted abstracts. More than 1,000 oral sessions and 8,200 presentations were featured as well as more than 16,000 posters. Nearly two dozen scientific workshops were hosted, 101 town halls, ten tutorials, and five keynotes speeches. The Mountain Research Initiative hosted a synthesis workshop on future mountain climate change from elevation-dependent warming to elevation-dependent climate change, led by Nick Pepin from the University of Portsmouth, with experts from around the world. `

Notable glacier presentations over the course of the week included the possibility of a long subglacial river under the north Greenland ice sheet, a subglacial groundwater table beneath Greenland’s Hiawatha crater, measurements of tidewater glacier melt rates with underwater noise, the deglaciation of the Andes in central Chile, the role of ocean warming in the widespread retreat of Greenland’s marine-terminating glaciers, the geologic signatures of catastrophic glacier detachments, and significant surface melt detected across the Himalayas in synthetic aperture radar times series, among others. In case you missed it, AGU Cryosphere live-tweeted the research on display.

The 100th meeting of the American Geophysical Union was hosted in San Francisco, California December 9-13 (Source: Peter Deneen)

Is There Anything Natural About The Polar?

Is there a basis for calling the Himalayas––or all glaciers––a third pole? This article is one of the very few that explores both the social and scientific basis for answering this question positively. From the abstract: “Are similarities of temperature, snow and ice cover, and (certain) marine mammals sufficient to warrant both polar regions being considered a single object of study or governance? We argue that their treatment as a unit is an invitation to examine the motivations behind the choice to be polar rather than Arctic or Antarctic.”

Read the article here.

The Tibetan Plateau, often called the Third Pole (Source: NASA/WikiCommons).

Why Lake Superior Is Rising and What That Means for the City of Duluth

As a climate threat, sea level rise has been well-documented. However, it’s rising lake levels, linked to the warming climate, that may be threatening the shores of Duluth, Minnesota, a city recognized for its climate-safe attributes and that is being advertised as a safe haven for climate refugees.

Read the story by Audrey Ramming on GlacierHub here.

Time series plot of Lake Superior water levels: When working for NOAA, Gronewold helped develop the Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard as a tool to look at long term water level data in the Great Lakes. Notice the recent rising trend. The red line represents the average water level for the period of record while the blue dots represent the average water level in a given month. (Source: Andrew Gronewold/NOAA)

Read More on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: Bushfires in Australia Blanket New Zealand Glaciers in Soot

Video of the Week: How do we Keep the Paris Agreement on Track by COP26?

Airport Construction Threatens Andean Environments and Cultural Monuments

Photo Friday: Alaska’s Sheridan Glacier––via Operation IceBridge

This Photo Friday features Sheridan Glacier in southeastern Alaska, a lake-calving glacier with a rapidly disintegrating floating tongue. Alaskan glaciers are melting faster and contributing more to sea level rise than any other region in the world, according to a recent study. In April, NASA’s Operation IceBridge released the remarkable image below and described the mission and its relevance:

“In Alaska, 5 percent of the land is covered by glaciers that are losing a lot of ice and contributing to sea level rise. To monitor these changes, a small team of NASA-funded researchers has been flying scientific instruments on a bright red, single-engine plane since spring 2009.”

Sheridan Glacier, near Cordova, Alaska, is seen from an Operation IceBridge flight in August 2018 (Source: Martin Truffer/USAF/ via NASA).

Operation IceBridge is a temporary mission to collect critical data for predicting the response of the Earth’s polar ice to climate change and sea-level rise. NASA assembled the operation after an ice monitoring satellite, NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), malfunctioned in 2009, bridging the gap until the successor satellite, ICESat-2, could be launched in 2018. According to NASA, while scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center managed the two larger yearly field campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctica, monitoring Alaskan glaciers fell on a smaller team based at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska.”

This photograph from Operation IceBridge was taken on Aug. 29, 2017, from 28,000 feet, looking north while surveying Nioghalvfjerdsbrae (79 N) Glacier in northeast Greenland.

NASA said 2019 would be the final year of IceBridge flights, “the end of an era of airborne observations that has catalogued an Arctic that has experienced rapid change––from the rapid thinning of many Greenland ocean-terminating outlet glaciers to the continued decline of the Arctic sea ice pack in extent, snow cover and thickness.”

This photograph from a Sept. 11, 2016 flight captures Greenland’s Steenstrup Glacier, with the midmorning sun glinting off of the Denmark Strait in the background (Source: John Sonntag/NASA)

Joe MacGregor is IceBridge’s project scientist and a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “In terms of monitoring Arctic ice, IceBridge and its predecessor NASA airborne campaigns have produced a remarkable legacy that stretches back to 1993––more than a quarter century––beginning and continuing with the Airborne Topographic Mapper laser altimeter,” MacGregor said. “With ICESat-2 now in orbit, collecting great data and hopefully lasting for many years, we can now map ongoing changes in polar ice in fine detail from space. That will allow NASA to refocus our airborne efforts on other types of measurements or other priority areas.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

Alaskan Glaciers Are Melting Twice as Fast as Models Predicted

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

Photo Friday: Finding Glaciers in Alaska

Video of the Week: AWS Installation on Yala Glacier

In this week’s Video of the Week, an automatic weather station (AWS) is installed on Yala Glacier in Nepal, one of the world’s most studied glaciers. In the video shared by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on October 16, a young researcher, Anushilan Acharya, is identified with the hashtag #girlsonice.

The installation is part of a push by ICIMOD to increase data collection on glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. Of the 54,252 identified glaciers in the HKH, only seven are monitored by ICIMOD researchers. The information is essential to understanding how climate change might affect the region’s water resources.

The weather stations provide data points for glacier monitoring. Last year, GlacierHub reported on a study which found approximately 21 percent of Yala’s annual snowfall was returned to the atmosphere via sublimation, a rate higher than most glaciers on Earth’s tallest mountain ranges.

Fieldwork on Yala is notoriously difficult. The glacier is a four-day hike from the start of the Langtang Valley, which is a day’s drive from Kathmandu. In the sublimation study, an eddy covariance system was installed to measure the rate of snow loss to the atmosphere. The instruments required so much energy to power that the team had to lug a car battery up the glacier to ensure it would have sufficient energy to run during the research.

Read More on GlacierHub:

New Heights in the Himalayas: High-Altitude Weather Monitoring

Mapping and Monitoring Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

Where the Yala Glacier’s Ice is Going

Roundup: New Carbon Sink Discovery, Himalaya GLOFs, and Invasive Plants in Antarctica

Proglacial Freshwaters Found to be Carbon Sinks

Researchers in Canada have discovered that proglacial freshwaters are important carbon sinks. Glacier retreat has often been considered a negative consequence of climate change, but this finding suggests there may be benefits as well.

Read the story by Zoë Klobus on GlacierHub here.

Researcher Kyra St Pierre conducts field work on the Blister River (Source: Kyra St Pierre)

Himalaya GLOF Threat Featured in National Geographic Features

From National Geographic: “Scientists say the accelerated melting of Asia’s estimated 56,000 glaciers is creating hundreds of new lakes across the Himalaya and other high mountain ranges. If the natural dam holding a glacial lake in place fails, the resulting flood could wipe out communities situated in the valleys below. Engineers in Nepal are looking at ways to lower the most dangerous lakes to reduce the threat.

“It’s all happening much faster than we expected it to even five or 10 years ago,” says Alton Byers, a National Geographic explorer and mountain geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder.”

Read the story here.

Upper Barun Valley, Nepal which features results of the Langmale GLOF on the lower left side of the image (Source: Roger Nix/Flickr)

An Invasive Plant Species Is Taking Over Antarctica’s Glacier Forelands

Invasive species are an enormous threat in Antarctica where one non-native vascular plant species is widespread and studies have shown negative impacts on native flora. The continent has only two species of “higher” plants, but a newcomer has people worried. New research shows that it is often founds in “glacier forelands”––areas exposed by recent glacier retreat.

From the abstract: “Using field “common garden” experiments, we evaluate the competitive impact of the increasingly wide- spread invasive grass Poa annua on the only two native vascular species of Antarctica, the forb Colobanthus quitensis and the grass Deschampsia antarctica. We focus on interactions between these three plant species under current and a future, wetter, climate scenario, in terms of density of individuals.”

Read the study here.

Pa, the invasive species, and the two native species (Source: Molina-Montenegro, etc al).

Read More on GlacierHub:

Antarctic Fungi Provides a Window into the Past and Future

Off with the Wind: The Reproduction Story of Antarctic Lichens

GLOF Risk Perception in Nepal Himalaya

Photo Friday: Glaciers of the McMurdo Dry Valleys

The McMurdo Dry Valleys, located in Victoria Land, Antarctica, are a row of mostly snow-free valleys home to eleven named glaciers. The region is one of the world’s most extreme deserts. Scientists consider the conditions there to be the closest approximate analogue to the planet Mars. The following series of photos were taken during a National Science Foundation- supported expedition in November 2017:

Suess Glacier is located in the Taylor Valley in Victoria Land. It was named by British explorer Captain Robert Scott for the Austrian geologist and paleontologist Eduard Suess.

The Suess Glacier in Victoria Land, Antarctica on November 19, 2017 (Source: Greg Neri/National Science Foundation).

Canada Glacier, located just east of Suess Glacier in the Taylor Valley, was named by the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913, who explored this area.

Canada Glacier, Taylor Valley, on November 18, 2017 (Source: Greg Neri/National Science Foundation).

A helicopter view of the Commonwealth Glacier and New Harbor, the flat white seen in the distance. This is the entrance to the Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Commonwealth Glacier and New Harbor on November 18, 2017 (Source: Greg Neri/National Science Foundation).

Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys as viewed from a helicopter. The valley was named for Thomas Griffith Taylor, chief geologist on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition (1910-1913).

Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys as viewed from a helicopter on November 18, 2017. Canada Glacier is in the distance (Source: Greg Neri/National Science Foundation).

Read More on Glacierhub:

Video of the Week: Study Examines Melting of Greenland

Proglacial Freshwaters Found to be Carbon Sinks

Russian Navy Confirms Emergence of Five New Islands in the Arctic Ocean

Roundup: A Tlingit Song, Glacier Theory, and Rock Glacier Classification

Tlingit Song Recalls Glacier Bay and Time Gone By

A recent paper describes a song from 120 years ago that a Huna Tlingit woman named Mary Sheakley first sang after an encounter with wolves in Glacier Bay Alaska. Just as remarkable is the spontaneous recollection of it decades later by her younger clan sister after being nearly lost to time.

Read the story by Grennan Milliken on GlacierHub here.

Amy Marvin performing Mary Sheakley’s song in 1996. (Credit: University of Southeast Alaska)

An 1852 Visit to an Opponent of Glacier Theory

After a promising start to his earth sciences career, Louis-Albert Necker, grandson of renowned geologist and Alpine explorer Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, abandoned his hometown of Geneva, publishing nothing further and spending the last twenty years of his life on the Scottish Isle of Skye. At the time he disagreed that glaciers were responsible for the deposition of erratics, instead preferring deluge theory as responsible for their movement. From the journal Earth Sciences History:

“Necker conceded that glaciers had once been more extensive but remained unconvinced by this explanation for the widespread movement of rocks, considering the evidence insufficient. His preferred explanation, catastrophic floods following the melting of glacier barriers that formerly retained mountain lakes, was in line with his grandfather’s theory.”

Read more in “A Visit To Louis-Albert Necker On The Isle Of Skye, 1852.”

Necker is best remembered for the Necker cube (on the left), impossible cube on the right (Source: WikiCommons).

A Study to Classify Rock Glaciers

An effort to classify rock glaciers into binary status, intact vs relict, resulted in the inventory of 235 rock glaciers, which can be used to estimate quantity of frozen material within a rock glacier. The study, focused in South Tyrol, Eastern Italian Alps, was published in the journal Science Direct. From the abstract:

“Ice presence in rock glaciers is a topic that is likely to gain importance in the future due to the expected decrease in water supply from glaciers and the increase of mass movements originating in periglacial areas. This makes it important to have at ones disposal inventories with complete information on the state of rock glaciers. This study presents a method to overcome incomplete information on the status of rock glaciers (i.e. intact vs. relict) recorded in regional scale inventories.”

Read the full study here.

Intact and relict tongue-shaped rock glaciers located in Zay Valley – South Tyrol (Source: Kofler et al).

Read More on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: Taku Glacier Is Finally Receding

Russian Navy Confirms Emergence of Five New Islands in the Arctic Ocean

Video of the Week: Debris Fall Caught on Camera at Ganja La

Photo Friday: Taku Glacier Is Finally Receding

The Wikipedia page for Taku Glacier needs updating.

Taku Glacier, the deepest and thickest alpine temperate glacier in the world, is no longer the only major glacier advancing in the Juneau Icefield––it is finally receding. Taku, which measures 4,845 feet (1,477 m) and 36 miles (58 km) long, was long heralded as a symbolic holdout to the melt that has most glaciers in retreat.

Taku Glacier on August 20, 2014 (Source: NASA)
Effects of Taku Glacier mass loss is visible at the boundaries between the glacier and river. Image taken on August 9, 2019 (Source: NASA)

Mauri Pelto is a professor of environmental science at Nichols College and director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. “This is a big deal for me because I had this one glacier I could hold on to,” Pelto told NASA. “But not anymore. This makes the score climate change: 250 and alpine glaciers: 0.”

Pelto’s finding was published in the journal Remote Sensing on October 14. The following day GlacierHub published a post by Pelto, “A Two-Century-Long Advance Reversed by Climate Change.”

The determination that Taku has succumbed to the warming climate was made after completing annual end-of-summer snowline measurements. Surface melt is responsible for the glacier’s turnaround, according to Pelto. The Juneau Icefield Research Program has been watching and reporting Taku’s yearly mass balance to the World Glacier Monitoring Service since 1946.

The glacier had been expected to continue advancing through the rest of the century. “To be able to have the transition take place so fast indicates that climate is overriding the natural cycle of advance and retreat that the glacier would normally be going through,” Pelto said.

An entry at the bottom of Taku’s Wikipedia page reads “Taku Glacier was reported to be in retreat as of 2019.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Read More on GlacierHub:

A Two-Century-Long Advance Reversed by Climate Change

What the 2018 State of the Climate Report Says About Alpine Glaciers

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

Video of the Week: Debris Fall Caught on Camera at Ganja La

In this week’s Video of the Week, former GlacierHub writer Sam Inglis shares footage from a traverse of the Gangja La––a 5,130 meter pass in Nepal––filmed in September 2019. The vantage point is from the High Camp, which according to Inglis was a debris-laden area, treacherous to walk on because of unstable rocks and snow cover, which was deeper than expected, concealing potential hazards.

View this post on Instagram

Gangja La High Camp, Langtang Valley | Nepal 🇳🇵 Debris tumbles down the face of an ice cliff on the glacier below the Gangja La. The ice has been exposed to the elements as a supraglacial lake has melted the surface of the glacier. This melting and destabilisation of the debris layer is a continuous process during the days, an expression of the degradation of the glacier. Eventually, this will ‘orphan’ the lower fragment of ice, as it is detached from the main trunk of the glacier. Given the debris cover in the area, the glaciers there may well become a rock glaciers, as climate change wastes the ice, as the slopes destabilise and melting & refreezing processes blend rock and ice together into a singular mass. #nepal #glacier #paraglacial #melt #climatechange #climatecrisis #rockglacier #langtang #gangjala #pass #himalaya #himalayangeographic #glaciology #glaciallake #supraglaciallakes #wasting #globalwarming #nepaltravel #trekking #highcamp #kanja #MountainsMatter #exploreeverything

A post shared by Sam Inglis (@theiceman_explores) on

In January, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development published the most comprehensive analysis to date of how climate change will affect the glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region. The high mountain area, known as roof of the world, is melting faster than anticipated, the report warned. Due to the remote location of many of the Himalaya’s 56,000 glaciers, however, ice collapse events are infrequently capture on camera.

Inglis, who is now a Nepal-based glacial hazards specialist, was part of a team trekking south out of the Langtang Valley. His video is a sobering glimpse of the third pole melting into a land of unstable lakes. “From the High Camp we could look straight into the supraglacial hollow and see the ice cliffs on either side of a glacial lake,” Inglis told GlacierHub. “It is clear that the lake has been burrowing its way down through the ice mass for some time.”

According to Inglis, the ice cliffs are no longer shielded by an insulating layer of debris. Exposure to direct sun and elements during the day is causing a continual shedding of debris into the lake.

Read More On GlacierHub:

Video of the Week: The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

Kathmandu Event Highlights Deepening Interest in Hindu Kush Himalaya Region

Rising Temperatures May Not Cause More Frequent GLOF Catastrophes