GLOF Risk Perception in Nepal Himalaya

Khumbu valley Mt. Everest region Nepal on GlacierHub
Overlooking a village and glacial river in the Khumbu valley, Mt. Everest region of Nepal (Source: Matt W/Flickr).

Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) pose a significant, climate change-related risk to the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. Given the existence of this imminent threat to mountain communities, understanding how people perceive the risk of GLOFs, as well as what factors influence this perception, is crucial for development of local climate change adaptation policies. A recent study, published in Natural Hazards, finds that GLOF risk perception in Nepal is linked to a variety of socioeconomic and cultural factors.

Sonam Sherpa, lead author of the study and PhD candidate at Arizona State University, spoke to GlacierHub about the study’s primary objectives. She and the other researchers aimed to “capture the complex natural-social system interactions of cryospheric hazards in the Nepal Himalaya.” She further emphasized the importance of understanding how communities, “perceive the risk coming from glacial lake outburst flood, as perceptions can influence their actions, beliefs, and responses to natural hazards and associated risks.”

GLOFs occur when a lake’s natural barrier, usually a moraine, suddenly fails. The trigger can be a natural disruption, like a landslide, earthquake, or avalanche, or simply the buildup of excess water pressure from increased melt. GLOFs result in a rapid discharge of a lake’s water, inundating the downstream ecosystem with little to no warning. These events are destructive and endanger the lives and livelihoods of communities downstream.

Himalaya Nepal on GlacierHub
The Himalaya in Nepal (Source: cb@utblog/Flickr).

While scientists are clear about the threats posed by GLOFs, downstream communities often ignore or underestimate the potential impact floods could cause to life and livelihoods. So what are the factors contributing to how communities perceive this risk, and what factors influence their opinions?

The researchers conducted a survey of 138 households across nine villages within the Mt. Everest region. The survey elicited self-reported demographic information, such as age, gender, and sources of income. It also assessed risk perception regarding climate change, natural hazards, and hazards specific to regions with glaciers.

One survey question asked locals to rank various hazards “based on their likelihood and potential to damage.” Twenty seven percent of people ranked earthquakes first, while 23 percent put glacial floods first.

The researchers noted the 7.4 magnitude Gorkha earthquake in Nepal one year before, and attributed this result to cognitive availability, whereby recent or common events are more readily recalled than rare events. Sherpa, who is from the Khumbu area within the Mt. Everest region, even recalled her own fear that a glacial lake outburst flood would occur following the Gorkha earthquake.

In addition, the researchers found that rapid-onset events, namely earthquakes and GLOFs, were consistently ranked much higher than slow-onset impacts of climate change, such as changing weather patterns and water availability. GLOFs and earthquakes, though infrequent, occur rapidly and have catastrophic impacts, so people fear these events more.

Experience was a huge influence on risk perception. Both among individuals and communities that had previously experienced a GLOF event, the researchers observed a direct correlation between their experience and their perception of GLOFs as a critical threat.

When responses were analyzed by demographic, however, there was increased variation in the results. For example, young people perceived GLOFs as a greater risk than older people. The researchers surmised that media exposure coupled with more sources of information on climate change among the younger generation could explain this result.

Dingboche village in Nepal on GlacierHub
A view of the Dingboche village in Nepal (Source: smallufo/Flickr).

In search of more factors influencing risk perception, the researchers chose two of the nine villages to compare—Dingboche and Monjo. The two villages are located in different altitudinal zones, Monjo at 2,835 meters and Dingboche at 4,350 m, are considered high-risk areas for GLOFs. Residents of Monjo perceived the most risk from earthquake, then unseasonal rainfall, and finally  drought, while residents of Dingboche ranked earthquake, GLOF, then wind in order of risk.

“As a local Sherpa from Khumbu (the Mt. Everest region) myself, I had a little hint with regard to how one would perceive risk from glacial hazard based on spatial proximity,” said Sherpa. “It was surprising to see that in the data showed a similar result as well.”

The study identifies several reasons for the two villages’ variety in rankings. First is their geographical location. At its higher altitude, Dingboche is in closer proximity than Monjo to glacial lakes. The Dingboche village sits directly below Imja Lake, a heavily studied glacial lake which scientists categorize as a moderate to critical GLOF risk.  

Geographical location further influences the primary source of livelihoods. Villages dependent on tourism are more likely to have access to have information about GLOF risks. Dingboche is heavily dependent on tourism because its altitude is too high to support much agriculture. In contrast, Monjo relies equally on the tourism and agriculture industries.

Imja Tsho on GlacierHub
A shot of Imja Tsho, the lake which stretches across the middle of the photograph. Taken in 2012, four years before the remediation project took place (Source: Kiril Rusev/Flickr).

In 2016, Imja Lake underwent emergency remediation work to lower its water levels by 3.5 m. Following the project’s completion, perceived risk of GLOFs decreased in Monjo, but not in Dingboche. For Monjo, the remediation was a cognitive fix, but not for Dingboche. The project lowered the probability of a GLOF occurring, but as the closest village to Imja Lake, residents of Dingboche continued to perceive it as a critical threat to their community. Sherpa noted the remediation’s function as a cognitive fix as one of the study’s most interesting results, following the finding that proximity was a huge influencing factor on risk perception.

“I went through an emotional roller coaster thinking how rapid the changes are, in the glacial system and how it could impact my community, but at the same time how, very little is understood with regard to what’s happening in this biophysical system,” said Sherpa. Through this risk perception analysis, the researchers aimed to emphasize the necessity of including locals in the development of climate change adaptation policies.

Accurate scientific information is critical, but it is equally as important to communicate potential hazards properly so communities truly understand the risks they face. Only then will scientists, government, and local communities truly be able to work together to create a comprehensive plan to mitigate and adapt to the risks they face.

Roundup: Tibet’s Cryosphere, Methane Release, and Rockfall-induced GLOFs

The Tibetan Plateau’s Changing Cryosphere

From Earth-Science Reviews: “This paper comprehensively reviews the current status and recent changes of the cryosphere (e.g., glacier, snow cover, and frozen ground) in the TP from the perspectives of observations and simulations. Because of enhanced climate warming in the TP, a large portion of glaciers have experienced significant retreat since the 1960s, with obvious regional differences. The retreat is the smallest in the TP interior, and gradually increases towards the edges.”

Check out the full study here.

Tibetan Plateau mountains on GlacierHub
A view of the mountains from a green valley in the Tibetan Plateau (Source: Hans Johnson/Flickr).

 

Methane Release Under Greenland’s Ice Sheet

From Nature: “Here we find that subglacially produced methane is rapidly driven to the ice margin by the efficient drainage system of a subglacial catchment of the Greenland ice sheet…We show that subglacial hydrology is crucial for controlling methane fluxes from the ice sheet…Overall, our results indicate that ice sheets overlie extensive, biologically active methanogenic wetlands and that high rates of methane export to the atmosphere can occur via efficient subglacial drainage pathways. Our findings suggest that such environments have been previously underappreciated and should be considered in Earth’s methane budget.”

Check out the full study here.

Helheim Kangerdlugssuaq Greenland ice sheet on GlacierHub
NASA’s IceBridge flying over the Helheim/Kangerdlugssuaq region of Greenland’s ice sheet, documenting summertime melt (Source: NASA Goddard/Flickr).

 

Rockfall-induced GLOFs in Nepal

From Landslides: “On April 20, 2017, a flood from the Barun River, Makalu-Barun National Park, eastern Nepal formed a 2–3-km-long lake at its confluence with the Arun River as a result of blockage by debris. Although the lake drained spontaneously the next day, it caused nationwide concern and triggered emergency responses…This study highlights the importance of conducting integrated field studies of recent catastrophic events as soon as possible after they occur, in order to best understand the complexity of their triggering mechanisms, resultant impacts, and risk reduction management options.”

Check out the full study here.

Upper Barun Valley on GlacierHub
Upper Barun Valley, Nepal. The aftermath of the Langmale GLOF are shown on the lower left portion of the image (Source: Roger Nix/Flickr).

New Study Highlights Loss & Damage in Mountain Cryosphere

Few areas of the planet have been more affected by climate change than the mountain cryosphere, where negative impacts like glacier recession far exceed any positives like short-term increases in glacial runoff. These adverse changes make highland environments ideal for examining the policy concept of Loss and Damage (L&D), which deals with the impact of climate change on resources and livelihoods that cannot be offset by adaptation. A recent study in Regional Environmental Change analyzes L&D in the mountain cryosphere by extracting examples from existing literature on the subject and developing a conceptual approach to support future research to address the subject.

L&D has become an important issue within the international climate policy realm in recent years. In the mountain cryosphere, the effects of climate change and the resultant L&D are directly evident. However, despite the visibility of these changes, research on L&D has rarely focused on these mountain environments, says the study’s lead author Christian Huggel, who spoke with GlacierHub about his paper.

The dearth of research presented a unique opportunity for Huggel and his team to analyze L&D in the mountain cryosphere, to provide information to policymakers, and to create a framework for future research.

Photo of the Francis Glacier in Chile.
The Francis glacier in the Chilean Andes. The Andes had the most papers examined by the study (Source: Pieter Edelman/Creative Commons).

L&D work within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) first emerged around the impacts of sea-level rise on Small Island Developing States in the early 1990s, gaining further traction at the UNFCCC’s COP19 in Warsaw, where the Warsaw Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts was established. Then in 2015, at the landmark COP21 in Paris, the Paris Agreement’s Article 8 was dedicated to L&D. Although this article acknowledges the importance of L&D, it also states that it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation,” which is a serious limit to concrete action.

Despite the attention to L&D in international climate negotiations, significant controversy still surrounds the issue. Most of this controversy centers on the historical responsibility and potential liability of the developed countries for climate change impacts, with developing countries arguing for compensation, risk management, and insurance from the developed world.

Huggel told GlacierHub, “As the first systematic study of L&D in the Mountain Cryosphere, the researchers had to first frame existing literature on mountain climate change impacts within the concept of L&D.” To do this, they considered peer-reviewed literature published in English between 2013 and 2017 that dealt with issues of glaciers and climate change, and more specifically glacial shrinkage and permafrost degradation. Their search procured 41 papers for the final analysis.

Photo of the Ngozumpa Glacier in Nepal.
The Ngozumpa glacier in the Himalayas. The Himalayas had the second highest number of papers examined by the study (Source: Sebastian Preußer/Creative Commons).

They next considered the geographic distribution of these papers. Surprisingly, the majority of papers focused on the Andes and the Himalayas, while fewer focused on Europe and North America, despite better documentation of climate change effects in those regions. Overall, none of the papers explicitly mentioned L&D while highlighting glacial and climate change processes. Half of the papers focused on slow-onset processes, namely changes in river runoff and water availability, while a smaller subset focused on physical changes to landscapes due to glacial retreat and ecosystem changes.

The second biggest group of papers examined both slow-onset and sudden-onset processes. Finally, the smallest group of papers focused solely on sudden-onset processes, mainly glacial outburst floods (GLOFs), which can also be considered a combination of both slow and sudden-onset processes.

Next, the researchers grouped the socio-economic impacts found in the reviewed papers. These groups included cultural impacts, impacts to livelihoods, loss of productivity and revenue, loss of natural resources, loss of lives, loss of security and social order, and damages to property and assets. The group with the highest number of papers was damage to and loss of natural resources, followed by loss of productivity and revenue.

The timeframes for the impacts were also considered. More than half of the papers examined potential future impacts and often highlighted strategies to address them.

Chart of loss and damages by paper.
A graph of the relationship between the type of event and category of the L&D in papers examined by the study (Source: Huggel et al.).

A majority of the papers fell within the researchers’ avoidable L&D category, meaning they could be mitigated with the right actions. A smaller subset were categorized as unavoidable L&D, impacts that could have been prevented if the correct steps were taken, while only two papers were identified as avoided L&D. Some papers suggested that glacial retreat was unavoidable because of the delayed response of glaciers to climate change, meaning they will continue to shrink in the future even if mitigation measures are undertaken. Other papers, however, highlight that when comparing low-emission to high-emission scenarios, there is a discernible difference in glacial retreat; thus, it may be partly avoidable.

From their literature review, the researchers made several observations. First, they note the current disconnect between mountain cryosphere research and L&D, which indicates that the concept of L&D has yet to be analyzed and applied for these environments. Second, their study reveals that L&D in the mountain cryosphere is a worldwide phenomenon occurring in all major mountain ranges with a higher proportion of L&D in developing rather than developed countries. Third, they highlight the seven groups of L&D outlined above as particularly relevant to the mountain cryosphere. Out of these, the non-economic ones, of which five of the seven can be considered, have attracted attention in research and policy due to the loss of values associated with glacial retreat, such as community and self-reliance.

Finally, the researchers propose an analytical and process-based framework to understanding L&D in the mountain cryosphere, considering the driving physical processes, the secondary physical processes (slow-onset and sudden events), and the associated societal impacts. These three elements will help to foster an understanding of how L&D is “connected, driven, and caused by climate and cryosphere change,” in addition to the social, political, and economic factors.

Chart of the L&D Framework.
The L&D framework developed by the study highlights the cascading impacts of climate change on the mountain cryosphere (Source: Huggel et al.).

The driving physical processes in the framework are broken down into three elements: glaciers, snow, and permafrost, which are all primarily affected by the warming climate. The secondary primary processes are more numerous and include impacts such as GLOFs, losses of seasonal melt water, and ecosystem changes. Finally, the tertiary societal impacts include loss of lives, loss of natural resources and livelihoods, and loss of income, security, and social order.

This L&D framework highlights the cascading impacts in the mountain cryosphere. One illustration of this is glacial retreat leading to a reduction in water availability, followed by low agricultural yields which lead to a loss of income to farmers.

Overall, this study represents an initial advance of research and policy for L&D in the mountain cryosphere. The concepts and framework outlined in the study may well encourage future research on the subject and ultimately lead to policies to better manage L&D in the mountain cryosphere.

IPCC Announces Details of a Report Chapter on High Mountains

On 17 August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced the list of experts it has invited to work on a major document, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC).

Hans Poertner, co-chair of IPCC WG II and an ecophysiologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute (source: youtube).

Hans Poertner, the co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, underscored the importance of this report. In a statement issued by the IPCC, he noted that the report “is unique in IPCC history.” He added, “[It] reflects the increasing awareness of how important and at the same time how fragile the ocean is as a life-sustaining unit of our planet. The ocean offers many services to ecosystems and humankind, from climate regulation to food supply.” He explained the decision to link oceans and the cryosphere in the report by stating, “At the same time, ocean-cryosphere-atmosphere interactions will shape sea-level rise as a major challenge to human civilization.” Working Group II is the unit within IPCC which assesses climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

Debra Roberts, Working Group II co-chair added, “As an IPCC Special Report focused on two Earth systems which together cover the majority of the planet’s surface and which affect the majority of the global population, a diverse and skilled author team is critical in ensuring a report of the highest policy relevance.”

The role of mountains and glaciers in this report was underscored by IPCC vice-chair Ko Barrett, who said, “The IPCC looks forward to working with experts from around the world on this important topic that impacts billions of people, from the high mountains and polar regions to the coasts.” Barrett chaired the scientific steering committee for the scoping meeting, held in Monaco in December 2016, that drafted the outline of the Special Report.

Regine Hock (right), a Coordinating Lead Author on SROCC, and a glaciologist at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, during a research trip to the Jarvis Glacier in the Alaska Range in 2014 (source: University of Alaska).

From a total of 569 individuals who were nominated from 57 countries, the IPCC selected 101 experts from 41 countries, each of whom was assigned to one of the report’s six chapters. Each of the chapters has about a dozen Lead Authors, who have the responsibility for preparing the contents of the chapters. Each chapter also has two or three Coordinating Lead Authors, who are charged with providing oversight to assure comprehensive coverage and balance of topics and perspectives, and two or three Review Editors, who are tasked with making sure that the Authors give proper consideration to the substantive comments which arrive during the review stages. Of these experts for SROCC, 69 percent are men and 31 percent women. The distribution by the type of nation is roughly similar, with 64 percent coming from developed countries and 36 percent from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. 74 percent of the selected are new to the IPCC process.

The names, affiliations and other details of the experts assigned to Chapter 2, High Mountain Areas, are appended below. A number of these experts work at institutions in mountain countries, or are citizens of mountain countries. Full details are available at the IPCC website.

 

  Last Name First Name Role Gender Country Citizenship Current Affiliation
1 HOCK Regine CLA F USA Germany University of Alaska Fairbanks
2 RASUL Golam CLA M Nepal Bangladesh International Center for Integrated Mountain Development
3 ADLER Carolina LA F Switzerland Australia Mountain Research Initiative
4 CÁCERES Bolívar LA M Ecuador Ecuador INAMHI, Ecuador
5 GRUBER Stephan LA M Canada Germany Carleton University
6 HIRABAYASHI Yukiko LA F Japan Japan University of Tokyo
7 JACKSON Miriam LA F Norway UK Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
8 KANG Shichang LA M China China State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences
9 KUTUZOV Stanislav LA M Russia Russia. Russian Academy of Sciences
10 MILNER Alexander LA M UK UK University of Birmingham
11 MOLAU Ulf LA M Sweden Sweden University of Gothenburg
12 MORIN Samuel LA M France France Météo-France
13 ORLOVE Ben LA M USA USA Columbia University
14 ADITI Mukherji RE F Nepal India International Centre of Integrated Mountain Development
15 KASER Georg RE M Austria Italy University of Innsbruck, Austria

 

This mountain chapter is expected to be about 30 pages in length. It will be comprised of six sections, which integrate natural and social systems. The first is physical processes, the observed and projected changes in mountain cryosphere (glaciers, permafrost, and snow), and the common drivers of change, and feedbacks (e.g., CH4 emissions, albedo) to regional and global climate. The next two focus on impacts: the effects of a changing mountain cryosphere on natural hazards and management options for protecting lives, livelihoods, infrastructure, and ecosystems; and impacts from changes in the mountain environment, including low latitudes (e.g., Himalayas, Andes, Africa) on habitability, community livelihoods and culture. A fourth section examines risks and responses, with emphasis on risks for societies that depend on mountain cryosphere for water resources (e.g., human consumption, ecosystems and agriculture), including cascading risks, and potential response strategies (e.g., national and international water resource management and technologies). Links to energy systems, and thus to climate mitigation as well as to economic issues, appear in the fifth section, which addresses impacts of variability and trends in water supply on hydropower production and implications for energy policy and water governance. The final section connects high mountains to other regions, examining the influence of mountain cryosphere run-off on river and coastal systems and sea level.

Golam Rasul (right), a Coordinating Lead Author on SROCC, and a development economist at ICIMOD, at a conference International Conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Mountain Development in 2011 (source: IISD).

Other chapters and sections in the SROCC address the framing and context of the report; polar regions; sea level rise and implications for low-lying islands, coasts and communities; changing ocean, marine ecosystems, and dependent communities; and extremes, abrupt changes and managing risks, as well as a summary for policy-makers, a technical summary, and ancillary materials (case studies, frequently asked questions, text boxes). The IPCC has provided a detailed schedule of activities for this Special Report. A series of four multi-day lead author meetings will allow for preparation of the first, second and final drafts; these meetings will alternate with three review periods, each about two months long, in which comments will be provided by experts and governments. The first Lead Authors meeting will take place in 2–6 October 2017, in Fiji, with later meetings over the following year and a half. The IPCC approval of the Summary for Policymakers and acceptance of the Special Report is scheduled for late September 2019.

Kang Shichang, a Lead Author on SROCC, and director of State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (source: CAS.CN).

This Special Report is one of three that the IPCC is preparing as part of the assessment cycle that will also lead up to the Sixth Assessment Report. The first of these reports, scheduled to be finalized in September 2019, is on Global Warming of 1.5°C. It considers the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. The other, also scheduled for September 2019, is Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, a methodology reported will be completed by May 2019. It is titled “2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.” The lists of authors and review editors for these reports are also available from the IPCC.

Photo Friday: Historic Images of Glaciers

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) advances scientific research on the frozen areas of the Earth, known as the crysophere, and the climate that influences them. Founded in 1976, the center manages a data archive and educates the public about the cryosphere, including the world’s glaciers. Scientists of the NSIDC specialize in collecting data through remote sensing, which is the process of using satellites to observe information. The center was originally formed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to hold archives from NOAA’s programs. Today, the NSIDC is housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where it continues to be the leader of cryospheric data management.

The photographs held by the NSIDC date back to the mid-1800s and include images of glaciers in Europe, South America, the Himalayas, Antarctica and elsewhere. As of 2010, the searchable, online collection has over 15,000 photos of glaciers, which serve as important historical records for researchers and scientists studying the impacts of climate change.

Take a look at GlacierHub’s compilation of photographs from the database. To view more historic images, visit the NSIDC’s Glacier Photograph Collection.

 

bertha-glacier
Bertha Glacier, Alaska, 1894 (Source: James J. McArthur).

 

 

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Crevasse at Arapaho Glacier, Boulder Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, 1919 (Source: Junius Henderson).

 

 

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Unknown glacier, Alaska, 1942 (Source: Photographer unknown).

 

 

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Blue Glacier, Washington, 1899 (Source: Photographer unknown).

 

 

 

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Yale Glacier, Alaska, 1935 (Source: William Osgood Field).

‘Foreign Policy’ Salutes the Cryosphere

Last month, a Foreign Policy column focused on security issues turned its attention to the cryosphere.

The writer, Sharon Burke, a senior advisor at the New America foundation and former Obama administration official, began by pointing out the “aesthetic pleasure” of the term “cryosphere”:

The word sounds like some kind of secret realm, possibly involving dead people, but it’s really ice, snow, glaciers, and permafrost. The cryosphere is all the frozen places on Earth, or more specifically, all the frozen water on Earth.

There’s just one problem with the magical ice kingdom: It’s melting.

Burke then focused on a new study (the New York Times covered it in late March) about the Antarctic ice sheet, and the implications that could have for the billions who live in places where the waters will rise.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature in March 2016 and called “Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise,” the Antarctic ice sheet is melting at a much faster rate than previously thought. This melting ice ends up in the Earth’s oceans, contributing to sea level rise.

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Effect of Southern Ocean warming on Antarctic surface air temperatures and the ice sheet at 128 kyr ago (Photo: Robert M. DeConto, David Pollard )

The study uses updated modeling, which includes details about rocks and glaciers, to establish projections of future Antarctic ice sheet loss. The authors say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, the West Antarctic ice sheet will start to break apart by the year 2050. The model includes melting from both below and above the ice sheets, by including the impact from warmer ocean currents underneath ice sheets and warmer temperatures in the atmosphere. The improved model reproduced ancient historical sea levels more accurately than previous models, focusing on a period  125,000 years ago, when the oceans were 20 to 30 feet higher. This success supports the model’s ability to accurately predict future sea levels.

But the Antarctic ice sheet is not the only factor influencing sea level. Sea ice, land glaciers, and permafrost are also melting at a rate that contributes to the disappearance of the cryosphere and contributing to rising oceans.

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Components of the cryosphere and their time scales. (Photo: IPCC )

Sea level rise is a very large problem for the human populations located in the vulnerable coastal zones. The Times article points out that New York, a city founded roughly 400 years ago, is unlikely to remain intact for the next 400 years. Cities like Miami, London, Hong Kong, and Sydney are also likely to feel the rising tides. But the populations in the most danger are those outside in the developing world. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, provides an example. It is one of the most populated cities in the world, with 15 million people, and is located at sea level.

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Flooding is already common in Dhaka (Photo: flickr/masud ananda)

According to the study, the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet could mean more than three feet of sea level rise, leaving limited alternatives for populations at risk. Costly solutions like sea walls and augmented infrastructure are out of the reach of the poorest cities. This leaves them in the greatest danger, with few options.

Roundup: Gender, Dust and Pacific Glaciers

Glaciers, gender, and science

“Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.”

To learn more about the research, click here.

The dark biological secret of the cryosphere

“Cryoconite is granular sediment found on glacier surfaces comprising both mineral and biological material. Despite long having been recognised as an important glaciological and biological phenomenon cryoconite remains relatively poorly understood. Here, we appraise the literature on cryoconite for the first time, with the aim of synthesising and evaluating current knowledge to direct future investigations. We review the properties of cryoconite, the environments in which it is found, the biology and biogeochemistry of cryoconite, and its interactions with climate and anthropogenic pollutants. We generally focus upon cryoconite in the Arctic in summer, with Antarctic and lower latitude settings examined individually. We then compare the current state-of-the-science with that at the turn of the twentieth century, and suggest directions for future research including specific recommendations for studies at a range of spatial scales and a framework for integrating these into a more holistic understanding of cryoconite and its role in the cryosphere.”

summit region of Devon Ice Cap, NU
Summit region of Devon Ice Cap, NU(Credit: Awenda-Geomatics/flickr)

To read more about the research, click here.

Hooker Glacier Retreat, 1990-2015

Glacier change revealed in Landsat images from 1990 and 2015.  Mueller Glacier (M) and Hooker Glacier (H).  The red arrow indicates 1990 terminus location, the yellow arrow indicates 2015 terminus location and the purple arrow indicates upglacier thinning.

“Hooker Glacier parallels the Tasman Glacier one valley to the west draining south from Mount Hicks and Mount Cook.  Hooker Glacier is a low gradient which helps reduce its overall velocity and  a debris covered ablation zone reducing ablation, both factors increasing response time to climate change  (Quincey and Glasser 2009). Hooker Lake which the glacier ends in began to from around 1982 (Kirkbride, 1993).  In 1990 the lake was 1100 m long (Figure 11.2).  From 1990 to 2015 the lake expanded to 2300 m, with the retreat enhanced by calving. The 1200 m retreat was faster during the earlier part of this period (Robertson et al.,2013).”
Landsat images from 1990 and 2015(Credit: American Geophysical Union)

To read more about the story, click here.