Li Zhongqin, a scientist who heads the Tianshan Mountains Glaciological Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, makes a seasonal hike toward the top of a glacier in the Tianshan mountains at the end of every summer to measure the thinning of the glacier, reports NPR. “We come up here each month to check it, to see how fast the glacier’s melt. Each year, the glacier is 15 feet thinner,” Zhongqin told Morning Edition’s Rob Schmitz.
Though the government has banned tourism on the glaciers in an effort to reduce the impact of pollution, global carbon emissions are a bigger threat. The melting glaciers are a big problem because not only are the glaciers the source of water for millions of people, but they also impact agriculture in drier areas like the city of Turpan that sits on the edge of Taklamakan Desert. Though dry, the region is an agriculture powerhouse which depends on the water arriving through meltwaters that flow through thousands of miles of underground tunnels called karez, an ancient irrigation system, now slowly drying up.
GlacierHub recently reported on the severity of drought in Xinjiang, and it’s uncertain future. This Photo Friday view photos of the slowly disappearing glaciers. Read more here.
In this week’s Video of the Week, watch two poets from two different walks of life unite to call attention to climate change. Aka Niavana is from Greenland, and she reflects on the way life is changing as the glaciers around her melt. Kathy Jetnil-Kijner is from the Marshall Islands, where her home is threatened by the melting ice and rising seas. In a joint expedition to the remote fjords of southern Greenland, the two activists perform their poetry, hoping to inspire action on climate change.
The story, published in The Guardian, is written by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
From Science: “About 1 million years ago, one of Earth’s most important metronomes mysteriously shifted: Ice ages went from occurring every 40,000 years to every 100,000 years. At the same time, the ‘conveyor belt’ of warming currents in the North Atlantic Ocean slowed sharply. Last week, scientists at the Goldschmidt Conference presented a clue to these twin mysteries: evidence that glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere suddenly began to stick to their beds. Growing thicker, they might have triggered a cooling that disrupted the conveyor belt and allowed the 100,000-year cycle that we see today to take root.”
Glacier Recession and Summer Streamflow in the Cascades
From Water Resources Research: “The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is the most highly glacierized region in the conterminous United States (858 glaciers; 466 km2)… We applied a high‐resolution glacio‐hydrological model to predict glacier mass balance, glacier area, and river discharge for the period 1960‐2099…Results show that the rate of regional glacier recession will increase, but the runoff from glacier melt and its relative contribution to streamflow display both positive and negative trends.”
From New York Times: “After an emergency landing on a Swiss glacier, the group of 12 Americans drank melted snow and survived on rations of one chocolate bar a person until daring pilots shuttled them to safety after five days marooned on the ice. Relics of that harrowing adventure and the successful rescue of all those onboard…resurfaced after more than 70 years this month when scorching summer temperatures in Europe caused the glacial ice to recede.”
Interested in climbing Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak? You might have to get in line.
Starting next year, France will impose a daily cap of 214 climbers while climbing the “White Mountain” to limit overcrowding and lower chances of fatalities. Higher temperatures at higher altitudes have created a risky environment for climbers as thawing grounds increase the threat of rockfalls. At least 16 people have died so far this year.
“It’s a tough decision but a very good one, because Mont Blanc is a climb unlike any other. You have to be prepared,” Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex of Saint Gervais (the Alpine town where the most popular climbing route up the mountain begins) told AFP.
Many routes up the mountain traverse Mont Blanc’s glaciers. On the busy “Royal Route,” for example, travelers have to cross the glacier du Tacul on the Mont Blanc du Tacul mountain. The Mer de Glace, or “Sea of Ice,” is another significant glacier near the summit, which has also melted and shrunk due to higher temperatures caused by climate change.
The new limits were announced after a series of meetings over the weekend between local officials, France’s mountain police brigade, the French mountaineering federation, and guide associations. Police have begun requiring aspiring climbers to reserve one of the refuges on the route before letting them proceed.
Translated from La República: “Studying in the United States is possible if you really want it. This is stated by Laura Balbuena, executive director of the Fulbright Commission in Peru, the entity in charge of the educational and cultural exchange between the United States of America and our country… One scholarship offered by the Fulbright Commission this year is aimed at Quechua-speaking professionals. Through the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) scholarship or Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, it is intended that Peruvian graduates who have mastery of the Quechua language – as a first language or learned – are assistants to the chair of this course that are offered in certain U.S. universities.”
From PNAS: “ If the world’s societies want to avoid crossing a potential threshold that locks the Earth System into the Hothouse Earth pathway, then it is critical that they make deliberate decisions to avoid this risk and maintain the Earth System in Holocene-like conditions…Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. ”
From The City Paper Bogota: “Climate change is taking a devastating toll on Colombia’s glaciers, according to the country’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies – IDEAM. In a study released last month, within the next 30 years, the six remaining glaciers that cover the peaks of Colombia’s Nevados will disappear if the ice continues to melt at current rates.”
This week, journey to Glacier National Park in Montana through videos taken this August by Natalie Belew, a GlacierHub writer and recent graduate of Columbia University’s Master of Arts in Climate and Society.
Earlier this week, Belew hiked the Grinnell Glacier trail to catch a glimpse of the rapidly shrinking Grinnell, Salamander and Gem glaciers. The Grinnell glacier, along with Salamander Glacier and Gem Glacier (one of the smallest remaining glaciers in the park), has substantially retreated in recent years. Between 1966 and 2005, Grinnell Glacier lost 113 acres, 45 percent of its total acreage. The videos have been taken from the overlook point and on the trail to the glaciers.
To learn more about Belew’s adventure, watch out for this week’s Photo Friday post.
On July 27, night-gazers rejoiced in watching the full moon, which also presented the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The total phase of the eclipse lasted 1 hour 42 minutes and 57 seconds, eclipsing January 2018’s total lunar eclipse by approximately 26 minutes. The waning gibbous phase of the moon can be seen this week as a daytime moon.
This Photo Friday, enjoy the beauty of the moon rising over glacier-covered mountains in the Cascades during the daytime. The Cascade range extends from southern British Columbia through the states of Washington, Oregon and Northern California. It includes both non-volcanic mountains as well as glaciated volcanic mountains such as Mt Adams.
Global Assesment of Sustainable Mountain Development
From Mountain Research Institute: “The MRI is collaborating with the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) to develop an approach for assessing sustainable mountain development using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. It is expected that this approach will help contextualize and highlight the specific needs and challenges faced in mountain areas, and inform policy and decision-making at all levels…The results of this project will be published as an issue brief in the fourth quarter of 2018. A session dedicated to the presentation of this issue brief will take place at the upcoming World Mountains Forum 2018, to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in October.
From Quaternary Science Reviews: “Helheim Glacier ranks among the fastest flowing and most ice discharging outlets of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS)… We present the first record of direct Holocene ice-marginal changes of the Helheim Glacier following the initial deglaciation. By analyzing cores from lakes adjacent to the present ice margin, we pinpoint periods of advance and retreat… Helheim Glacier’s present extent is the largest since the last deglaciation, and its Holocene history shows that it is capable of recovering after several millennia of warming and retreat.”
From International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: “The Indian border region of Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir State, has a sensitive Himalayan ecosystem and has experienced natural hazards and disasters of varying scales over the decades. Ladakh is also situated on a fault-line of multiple tensions, including ongoing border disagreements and intermittent conflict with China and Pakistan. This paper examines the implications of the intersection of these environmental and security factors for disaster governance in the region. This case study provides important insight into why disaster risk reduction has been slow or absent in conflict zones.”
Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Himalayan Rivers
From Environment Science and Policy: “In order to quantify the effect of climate changes on hydropower and fisheries, we developed an integrated assessment framework that links biophysical models (positive degree-day model, hydrologic model, run-of-river power system model, and fishery suitability index) and economic models. This framework was used to demonstrate the framework’s utility for gaining insights into the impacts of changed river flow on hydropower and fisheries of the Trishuli River in the High Mountain Asia (HMA) Region.”
From World Development: “Based on fieldwork in agro-pastoral communities in highland Cusco, Peru, this study examines climate perceptions in terms of how local community members understand and explain changing climatic conditions… For example, Jurt et al. note that some residents attributed the retreat of nearby glaciers to the abandonment of traditional offerings to the mountains (or apus, which have a similar ontological status as pachamama in traditional Andean belief). Bolin suggests that in her study areas, also in the Cusco region, ‘some indigenous people have wondered what they have done wrong to deserve the wrath of the gods.’”
Recession and Future Lake Formation on Drang Drung Glacier
From Environmental Earth Sciences: “Our analysis indicated that Drang Drung glacier shrunk by 13.84 percent from 1971 to 2017. Meteorological projections of temperature and precipitation were used to understand climatic changes over Drang Drung region. The snout of the glacier has retreated by 925 m since 1971 at the rate of 21.11 ma−1. However, the snout retreat radically accelerated since 2014 at 60 ma−1. Analysis of available satellite data suggested that the proglacial lake formed around 2014. The lake has expanded to 16.62 ha in 2017. ”
This week, travel back in time to 1953 through this video showcasing a Soviet expedition to Tian Shan, a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia. The video, shared by journalist Ryskeldi Satke, shows the expedition to South Engilchek Glacier. The glacier is the sixth largest non-polar glacier in the world, at about 60.5 km in length, and the largest and fastest moving glacier in Kyrgyzstan.
The expedition was taken to name a peak after Chinese-Soviet friendship when the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance was in place during the 1950s. In time to celebrate this World Cup season, the video also shows a high-altitude soccer match, where players play to win not a cup but a cake!
Soviet expedition to Tian Shan in 1953 through Stalin ridge to South Engilchek Glacier (60km overall length back then). Soccer match in between at the altitude of 3,200 meters for a cake. Purpose of this trip was to name a peak after Chinese-Soviet friendship. cc @GlacierHubpic.twitter.com/cScsF6qtwt
Is Glacier National Park in Montana losing its iconic glaciers? Scientists from the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center have photographed the same areas where glaciers were photographed in the early 1900s to document the changing glacial landscape of Glacier National Park.
In this week’s Video of the Week, published by the National Geographic, Dan Fagre, a USGS research ecologist, and his colleagues discuss what melting glaciers mean for the future of the park, wildlife and people. Dan Fagre has studied climate change in the park for more than 20 years using repeat photography and documented immense changes in the landscape of the park.
What happens when severe weather blocks roads in high mountain passes? This week, watch how transportation and road clearing teams on the Stelvio Pass in North Italy work to clear roads for the season by triggering avalanches. The Stelvio Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps at 2757 m above sea level and is also known for the Stelvio glacier, which attracts many skiers throughout the summer. This video is from Passo Stelvio – Stilfserjoch and was also posted on Twitter by severe-weather.EU.
Triggering avalanches on the road to Stelvio Pass, N Italy before clearing the road for the season. Yesterday, April 21. Video: Passo Stelvio – Stilfserjoch pic.twitter.com/izPUZfCfCD