An Icy Art Installation Clear As Crystal

“Thinning Ice”, an installation commissioned by Swarovski for its ninth year at Design Miami (December 3 – 7, 2014), links melting glaciers and climate change through a three-dimensional experience. Architect Jeanne Gang collaborated with James Balog, a National Geographic filmmaker/photographer, to create the installation, which includes a kind of glacier sculpture and a series of photographs, as well as video.

Swarovski Crystal's headquarters in Wattens, Austria. (Photo: HellasX/Wikimedia Commons)
Swarovski Crystal’s headquarters in Wattens, Austria. (Photo: HellasX/Wikimedia Commons)

The installation was inspired by Balog’s photographs of the shrinking Stubai Glacier in the Austrian Alps, where Swarovski is headquartered, over a three-year period. The Stubai photographs are part of Balog’s ongoing “Extreme Ice Survey,” an innovative, long-term photography project founded in 2007. The project consists of 28 cameras at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalayas, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains of the United States, which have been recording the rapidly depleting glaciers every thirty minutes over the past several years.

In an effort to bring Balog’s photographs to life, Gang displayed a fluid-formed luminous block, which represents a melting glacier, in the center of the room. This structure, which resembles a kind of table, is pocked with asymmetric holes embedded with a diverse selection of Swarovski crystals, from unprocessed fragments and shards to finely finished pieces. The holes are meant to resemble cryoconite holes, tiny perforations found on glaciers that are created by wind-blown dust made of rock particles, soot and microbes.

The installation’s floor is set with curving illuminated cracks, also filled with small bits of Swarovski crystal, which resemble the crevasses one might find in a receding glacier. Gang finished the installation room with an 11.5-foot tall and a 70-foot long media wall, which presented a running slideshow of epic photographs and video footage of the world’s glaciers.

(Source: Super Architects/Facebook)
Details from the “Thinning Ice Installation” (Source: Super Architects/Facebook)

 

“‘Thinning Ice’ is a work which captures the haunting beauty of the Earth’s threatened glaciers in a powerful, almost elegiac way,” said Nadja Swarovski, a member of the Swarovski Executive Board, in a statement. The immersive nature of the work is meant to inspire visitors to contemplate the implications of and solutions to the melting of the world’s glaciers.

Swarovski chose to showcase glaciers in Florida to highlight its commitment to sustainability. For 14 years, the company has funded its Swarovski Waterschool Program, which educates children around the world in the principles of sustainable water management. Swarovski also sources materials from suppliers that comply with the United Nations Global Compact’s human rights and environmental standards.

GlacierHub has posted other stories recently about artists from the United States, Italy, and Peru whose work centers on glaciers.

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Photo Friday: Miracles on Arid Lands

Some of the most unanticipated glaciers in the world are siting atop Iran’s mountains. Natural glaciers serve as a major fresh water resource in this arid country. Glacier recede plays a crucial role in affecting Iranian water supplies in urbanism, industries, and agriculture. Hence, Project Pressure was instigated by Klaus Thymann in 2008 as a non-profit organization, which documents the world’s vanishing glaciers in order to raise awareness of climate change, inspire action and participation. Klaus recently took a journey to Iran for Project Pressure. Here we share some photos of Klaus in Iran during the expedition.

Learn more about Project Pressure and photographer Klaus Thymann.

 

Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at glacierhub@gmail.com.

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Photo Friday: COP20 – Voices for Climate

The Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP 20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is happening in Lima, Peru since December 1st, 2014, which will end on December 12, 2014. It gathered about 15,000 people, who represent 195 countries and stakeholders, to negotiate and shape the contribution they will give to vastly reduce their carbon emission. It is a crucial step before reaching a climate change agreement in Paris in 2015. “Voices for Climate“, a platform that provides exhibition and interaction spaces for worldwide visitors, is designed to facilitate communication between different stakeholders and raise awareness about climate change surrounding the five emblematic themes: Forest, Mountains and Water, Oceans, Energy, and Sustainable Cities.
Here are some photos taken during “Voices for Climate” (Source: Flickr/Mountain Forum). Visit cop20lima.org for more information on COP20.
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Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at glacierhub@gmail.com.
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The Karakoram Glacier’s Secret to “Eternal Youth”

A view from Karakoram Highway and Tashgurkan, China. Scientists only recently understood why the Karakoram glacier remains stable. (Marc van der Chijs/Flickr)
A view from Karakoram Highway and Tashgurkan, China. Scientists only recently understood why the Karakoram glacier remains stable. (Marc van der Chijs/Flickr)

You might call it the ultimate cold case. In a time when glaciers are quite literally melting before our very eyes, one glacier in the Himalayas has been doing quite the opposite.

“It’s been a source of controversy that these glaciers haven’t been changing while other glaciers in the world have,” Sarah Kapnick, a postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric and ocean science at Princeton University, told livescience in October. She and her colleagues recently journeyed to the Himalayas to discover why the Karakoram Glacier has not lost volume over time, unlike so many other glaciers around the world. Though it melts a little in the summer, the melting is offset by snowfall in the winter.

Many attempts have been made to explain the “Karakoram anomaly.” Kapnick and other researchers published a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience last month which unearthed the secret for this phenomenon. Their answer: the area has a unique weather pattern that keeps the ice cold and dry during the summer months.

How this detail has escaped notice for so long has as much to with a lack of detail in previous climate models as anything else. The Princeton team’s new climate model has a resolution 17 times more detailed that the one used for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2,500 square kilometers compared with 44,100 square kilometers).

The new model simulated temperature and precipitation changes in three major Himalayas regions (Karakoram, the central Himalayas, and the south-east Himalayas which included parts of Tibetan Plateau) from 1861 to 2100. Global climate models from the IPCC overestimated the temperature in the Karakoram region because they could not properly account for the topographic variations in the Karakoram region. As a result, the models also underestimated the amount of snow that falls on the glacier. The new climate model successfully simulated seasonal cycles in temperature and precipitation due to its finer resolution.

“The coarser resolution ‘smoothed out’ variations in elevation, which works fine for the central Himalayas and southeast Himalayas,” Kapnick said in the Live Science interview. “However, the Karakoram region has more elevation variability than the other two regions.”

Unlike the rest of the Himalayas, the Karakoram region is not negatively affected by summer monsoon season, Kapnick discovered. The precipitation that occurred during the summer in the rest of the Himalayas never reached the Karakoram regions until winter when the temperature was already cold. The temperature in the Karakoram region on average is below freezing, which contributes to the excess snow it received in the winter when the western winds from Afghanistan bring in precipitation to the mountains.

Uighur man walking along the Karakoram Highway in the early morning. (Matthew Winterburn/Flickr)
Uighur man walking along the Karakoram Highway in the early morning. (Matthew Winterburn/Flickr)

This advantage from the western winds may not hold on long, though. If climate change continues on its current path, even the Karakoram region would be affected. Kapnick believes that as climate changes the Karakoram region can continue this advantage through 2100, but after that it’s unclear. “Understanding how that changes into the future is important from a climate perspective, but it’s also important from a societal perspective,” she said.

Understanding the snowfall patterns in the Himalayas can contribute to better understanding of variations in regional climate change. Moreover, the findings in this research can make a difference in water management processes regionally. Glaciers in the Himalayas serve as the primary water reservoir for many people in India, Pakistan, and China.

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Dark Snow Spells Doom for Glacial Melt Rates

lack ash covered the summit of New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu after an eruption in 2007, but was soon covered by fresh snow. Long-term accumulation of black carbon aerosols in the Arctic and Himalaya is leading to increased melting of snow. (Photo: New Zealand GeoNet)
Black ash covered the summit of New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu after an eruption in 2007, but was soon covered by fresh snow. Long-term accumulation of black carbon aerosols in the Arctic and Himalaya is leading to increased melting of snow. (Photo: New Zealand GeoNet)

“One week-old snow was turning black and brown before my eyes,” American geologist Ulyana Horodyskyj told the Guardian in earlier this year as she stood at her mini weather station, 5,800 meters above sea level on Mount Himlung, on the Nepal-Tibet border. Horodyskyj studies glaciers in Nepal’s Himalaya mountain range and is one of the many scientists, bloggers, and photographers who are documenting the pernicious effects of a phenomenon called “dark snow.”

This so-called dark snow is being discovered everywhere from the Himalayas to Greenland. Snow can be darkened by naturally made particles, such as soot from wildfires and volcanos or dust from bare soil. But industrial pollution is also a culprit: ultra-fine particles of “black carbon” from industrial plants and diesel engines are often carried in on fierce winds from thousands of miles away. The dust, soot and carbon darken the color of the snow, causing it to absorb more light from the sun, which speeds up glacial melting and lengthens the melt season.

“Governments must act, and people must become more aware of what is happening. It needs to be looked at properly,” said Horodyskyj.

Dark dust deposits on the Yanert ice field and glacier in Alaska. (Ins1122/Flickr)
Dark dust deposits on the Yanert ice field and glacier in Alaska. (Ins1122/Flickr)

In India, about 30 percent of glacial melt is attributed to black carbon, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). In addition, most of the black snow in the Himalayas or the Tibetan Plateau comes from Indian and Chinese soot (e.g. diesel fumes, coal burning, funeral pyres, and etc.). It’s even a problem in the Arctic, according to a paper recently published in Nature Geoscience by a team of meteorologists from the French government. They found that the Arctic ice cap, which is thought to have lost an average of 12.9 billion tonnes of ice a year between 1992 and 2010 due to general warming, may be losing an additional 27 billion tonnes a year due to dust.

This isn’t the first time in the earth’s long history that dust was blamed for glacial melt. Last year, a NASA-led team of scientists published a study in the Proceedings of Natural Academy of Science that found industrial soot led to the retreat of glaciers in the 19th century. The European Alps experienced the abrupt retreat of valley glaciers by about 0.6 miles from 1860 to 1930, during which time the temperature actually dropped continuously. Scientists suspected that the glacier retreats were caused by human activity. After years of research, it turns out that the lower-elevation pollution is a major cause of the mysterious loss of glacier mass.

Darkened ice is found near the edge of Byron Glacier. (Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Flickr)
Darkened ice is found near the edge of Byron Glacier. (Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Flickr)

To better understand and document the dark snow problem, Danish glaciologist Jason Box started the Dark Snow Project around 2 years ago, which measures the impact of changing wildfire soot, industrial black carbons, and snow microbes on snow and ice reflectivity. The Dark Snow Project is currently trying to raise $15,000 for the purchase of three drones to photograph the surface of glaciers in Greenland from a low altitude to examine surface melting.

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Roundup: Ice Clock Art, Sonic Sakteng, and Ganges Threat

Ice Watch: The Clock Is Ticking

“The Danes have artist Olafur Eliasson to thank for the strange configuration of Greenland-bred ice. It’s part of a project titled ‘Ice Watch,’ involving a dozen icy chunks arranged to resemble an ominous clock. Though the pieces look as though they’ve been surreptitiously washed ashore in the middle of a city, the melting artifacts serve as a direct call to arms: it represents the amount of ice that disappears every 100th of a second due to conditions of global warming.”

Read the full article on Huffingtonpost.com or Olafureliasson.net.

 

The Voice of Himalayas 

“Heap creates a sonic collage with field recordings of footsteps, streams, and broken ice. ‘It features vocals by the stunning bird like dexterity of Sonam Dorji’s voice who’s day job is to record and protect all the folk song from this country before all memory of them disappear,’ Heap explains.”

Read the full article on Noisey.Vice.com.

 

The Disintegration of Gangotri Glacier Threatens River Ganges

“A 2008 research report published in Current Science titled ‘Estimation of retreat rate of Gangotri glacier using rapid static and kinematic GPS survey,’ stated: ‘The Gangotri glacier is retreating like other glaciers in the Himalayas and its volume and size are shrinking as well.’ The glacier has retreated more than 1,500 metres (m) in the last 70 years. Post 1971, the rate of retreat of the glacier has declined. Dr Kumar said the latest data projects that post 2000 the average rate of retreat of the glacier per year has been about 12 to 13 m.”

Read the full article on TheHindu.com.

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Photo Friday: The Frozen Diamonds in Patagonia

A Glaciers Photo Contest was held last summer by ViewBug and Resource Magazine. It is difficult to capture galciers due to the size, location, and reflection of light. However, the winner of this contest, Paul Cashman, mastered the task with “The Coldest Shots of Patagonia“. In order to well capture these cold giants, he traveled to Torres Del Paine and Mount Fitzroy in Chile and Argentina where most of the pictures were taken. Check out the wining photo of Paul Cashman and more photos for this project, or visit his website.

Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at glacierhub@gmail.com.

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Glacier stories you may have missed this week – 10/6

California droughts and glacier melts lead to massive Mt. Shasta mudslide

“Experts believe glacial melting, accelerated by the drought, may have released “pockets of water” that destabilized massive ice blocks and causing the debris flow Saturday afternoon in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, officials said.”

Read more about Mt. Shasta mudslide in the Los Angles Times.

 

The culprit of glacier melting – pollution

“When Kaser’s team looked at ice cores previously drilled at two sites high in the western Alps – the Colle Gnifetti glacier saddle 4,455 m up on Monte Rosa near the Swiss–Italian border, and the Fiescherhorn glacier at 3,900 m in the Bernese Alps – they found that in around 1860 layers of glacial ice started to contain large amounts of soot.”

Read more about how pollution melts glaciers instead of rising temperatures in Climate Central news.

 

Cooling of the Earth increases erosion rates

“Every year, billions of tons of rock and soil vanish from Earth’s surface, scoured from mountains and plains and swept away by wind, rain, and other elements. The chief driver of this dramatic resurfacing is climate, according to a new study. And when the global temperature falls, erosion kicks into overdrive.”

Read more about cold climate shrinks mountains in Advancing Science, Serving Society (AAAS) news.

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