The New Science Editors of the Journal of Glaciology

The world’s glaciers, many of which have been around for millions of years, are in danger. Glaciers today are retreating faster than ever recorded. Some glaciers in tropical regions are on the verge of disappearing in the coming decades. Climate scientists and glaciologists are on the frontlines of understanding how climate change is threatings iconic glaciers, impacting tourism, ecosystems, and communities dependant on glaciers for water.

The Journal of Glaciology has recently brought on several new science editors. Although the journal is now over 70 years old, it’s gained importance and readership over the years as awareness of climate change has grown. The journal and its editors cover mostly the natural sciences such as chemistry, biology, and physics as well as the impacts of climate change on human societies.

GlacierHub interviewed several of the journal’s incoming authors. They come from a wide variety of scientific backgrounds, from a focus on the Greenland ice sheets to the glaciers and water cycle of the Himalayas. Experts told us about their goals for working with the journal and their expectations for the future of the field of glaciology and climate science. 

Karen Cameron

Karen Cameron (Source: Aberystwyth University)

Karen Cameron is research fellow at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom. As a glacial microbial ecologist, she studies the effects of microbiota on glacier surfaces, and how they may contribute to ice darkening, a driver of glacier melt. Cameron is an expert on Greenland ice sheets. In one of her most recent studies, she and other researchers examined the potential expansion of Greenland’s “dark zone,” an area of the ice sheet covered in dust, black carbon, and pigmented algae.

“I look forward to contributing towards the scientific community by helping to shape and encourage outputs relating to the ecology of glacial environments. Over the coming years, there should be many exciting developments in this field. For example, I expect to see a surge in reports relating to the effect of microbial communities on reducing albedo (surface reflectivity), which enhances glacial and sea ice melt. I also expect to see more robust estimations of the contributions that glacial and permafrost microbial communities make to current and future methane budgets. Similarly, investigations into the role of microbial communities in cycling valuable nutrients and making them available to downstream ecosystems, will likely feature. Finally, there should be exciting developments in the exploration of cryospheric organisms for potential drug development and biotechnological usage.”

Shad O’Neel

Shad O’Neel (Source: USGS.gov)

Shad O’Neel is a research geophysicist at the Alaska Science Center. His area of expertise includes glacier and ice sheet contributions to sea level rise, which is consequential to millions of people living along coastlines experience more frequent flooding. O’Neel also examines seismic activity at glaciers and iceberg calving events, which presents a considerable environmental hazard. Some of his more recent work focused on river discharge in subarctic Alaska suggests a link between glacier retreat, aquifer recharge, and lowland river discharge.

“I was brought on to the editorial staff to work on papers related to mountain glaciers due to my background working on them. My goal is to help promote high-quality papers related to processes and changes ongoing across Earth’s mountain glaciers. In particular, I am interested in mass balance. At the basin scale, emerging methods (e.g. ground penetrating radar) show potential to reduce uncertainties in mass change. How we aggregate observations and use them to constrain regional mass balance estimates and/or inform models is another topic I hope passes through my Journal of Glaciology inbox.”

Iestyn Barr

Iestyn Barr (Source: Manchester Metropolican University)

Iestyn Barr specializes in applications of remote sensing, GIS, and modeling in high-latitude environments. As a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, he instructs courses in glacial systems and geomorphological processes. His most recent publication compares effects of soil erosion and flooding from 1.5 degrees Celsius warming versus 2°C. Much of Barr’s previous research assesses historic glacial morphology and retreat, with substantial work done on the history, dimensions, and dynamics of the glaciers in Kamchatka, Russia. 

“My goal in working for the journal is to promote glaciology in general, and particularly to continue the excellent (and long running) success of the Journal of Glaciology. One of my particular areas of interest is looking at interactions between volcanoes and glaciers (‘glaciovolcanism’). Specifically, looking at volcanic impacts on glacier dimensions and dynamics; using glacio-volcanic landforms to reconstruct past glaciers; and considering the possibility that future glacier retreat might not only be driven by, but also force, volcanic activity.”

Argha Banerjee

Argha Banerjee (Source: IISER Pune)

Argha Banerjee is a glaciologist knowledgeable in the Himalayan glaciers. He is a professor of earth and climate sciences at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune. In a recent study, Banerjee, along with three other researchers, evaluated the effects of avalanches on mass balance in glaciers. They developed methods to attempt to quantify net avalanche contributions to mass balance, a feat which hasn’t been done before, and applied their methods to three Himalayan glaciers.

“My academic and personal experience over the past few years have made me appreciate the strong connections that Himalayan glaciers share with Himalayan climate, water cycle, landscape evolution, ecology, and so on. To be able to explore these connections is what makes Himalayan glaciology fascinating to me. I would love see more articles related to Himalayan climate, hydrology, and geomorphology in the journal. More studies of Himalayan snow/precipitation processes over all scales, too. I think we need to do a bit more about some of these gap areas to gain more confidence on the projections that we are making.”

Elisabeth Isaksson

Elisabeth Isaksson (Source: Elisabeth Isaksson)

Elisabeth Isaksson studies climate history and variability through analyzing ice cores in the Arctic and Antarctic. She is a senior research scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute. Isaksson is also interested in organic contaminant pollution in snow and ice from Svalbard. Some of her previous work looks at amplified levels of black carbon in the Arctic and the impacts from climate change in the region. In places like Tibet and the Arctic, black carbon concentrations on glaciers are becoming well understood by scientists to be a strong force for increased retreat and melt.

“In the three decades that have passed since I started working with polar glaciers, the situation and challenges related to glaciology have indeed changed a lot. Back in the 1980s, we just started looking for signs of any changes that could be related to global climate warming in the Antarctic; now the signs are obvious, and things are changing rapidly. To make progress and move science forward I think that we need to find new ways of working together across scientific disciplines, which at times can be time-consuming and challenging because of our traditions in scientific training. There are also new scientific areas related to melting glaciers that are particularly interesting; one example is biological production (bacterial biomass, for instance) both on melting glaciers and at glacier fronts. As a scientific editor for an important glaciological journal I am looking forward to learn more about these research fields.”

Read More at GlacierHub: 

What the Newest Global Glacier Volume Estimate Means for High Mountain Asia

Increased Focus on Mountains in the IPCC’s AR6 Report

Asia’s Water Supply Endangered by Third Pole Warming

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A New Discovery: Why and How Glaciers Flow?

For the 40 percent of the world’s population who live within 100 kilometers of the coastline, sea-level rise is more than just a mathematical calculation, it’s a survival challenge. Although scientists are confident about the impacts of accelerated glacier melting and ice flow on rising sea levels, projections for future ice loss remain at a fairly early stage. Developing better predictions for how glaciers melt and flow in the future remains a daunting task for glacier modelers.

Helheimregion of Greenland, with the midmorning sun glinting off of the Denmark Strait in the background (Source: NASA).

A new analysis published in the Journal of Science argues that the “largest uncertainty” in ice sheet models used to predict future sea-level rise originates from our limited understanding of underwater processes at the ice-bed interface. These ice-bed processes beneath water involve interactions among the weight of the ice, water pressure, and the roughness of the bedrock. One of the major consequences, of these underwater interactions and a cause of sea-level rise is basal sliding, when the glacier slides over the bed as a result of meltwater between the ice and the bed acting as a lubricant.

To address the uncertainties of ice sheet models, the paper analyzed 140 wet-based glaciers in Greenland. Wet-based glaciers are known to have a thin layer of water between the ice and the rock bed. In contrast, glaciers found in the frigid Antarctic lack such a layer and are frozen to the end.

Red polygons show the 140 marine-terminating glaciers analyzed. Jakobshavn Isbræ, Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier, and Helheim Glacier are circled in blue (Source: Stearns and Van Der Veen).

Scientific research on glaciers began in the early 18th century and developed more fully later on. Although glaciers seem static, their waning and waxing over time has long been recognized. Several theories have been proposed for this characteristic, including the Weertman formula, named after scientist Johannes Weertman. The Weertman formula states that the speed a glacier moves at its bed beneath the water is determined by both the friction and the amount of water surrounding the bed. Withstanding some bickering between Weertman and other scientists during the 1950s, the Weertman model has been widely accepted since then. An array of sea-level rise prediction models have built on this theory, with the latest study challenging the findings of the Weertman formula.

One of the two authors of the study, Leigh Stearns, a scientist at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets from the University of Kansas, spoke to GlacierHub about her research on the topic. “We found that the commonly-used model for basal sliding (the Weertman model) does not apply to all 140 Greenland glaciers that we analyzed,” she said.

Instead, the researchers found that subglacial water pressure, the water pressure difference between the ice sheet end and the hard bed underwater, dominates the speed of glacier flow.

Intrigued by their initial observations of the 140 overlooked mountain glaciers in Greenland, Stearns and her university colleague C. J. van der Veen found the effect of friction on glacier sliding speed to be “virtually non-existent,” which implicitly defers the Weertman notion. As a result, they spent a long time trying to figure out what other factor correlated better with glacier speed, according to Stearns.

This analysis involved a closer study on the subglacial water pressure in Greenland. Stearns and van der Veen believe this aspect has been largely overlooked by the glaciological community to date. They started their observations by calculating water pressure from the thickness of the ice and then calculating the effective pressures under the water. Stearns and van der Veen paired these findings with the latest observational data about glacier flow speed and found that the two are highly related.

However, Stearns also discussed the limitations of her study with GlacierHub. “We don’t understand all the mechanics for why the relationship between sliding velocity and effective pressure are so good, and why the relationship between sliding velocity and basal drag is so bad,” she said.

Ice Sheet in Greenland (Source: Christine Zenino/Wikimedia Commons).

Recognizing these uncertainties, the paper focused on current models of sea-level rise, which are based on the strong relationship between sliding speed and the roughness of the bed.

“Hopefully it will allow them to constrain their sea-level rise prediction models better, so uncertainties of future ice sheet mass balance are reduced,” Stearns added.

The paper notes that it is “imperative for the ice sheet modeling community to explore the impact that this new relationship may have on sea-level rise prediction.” With that said, the consequences of the researchers’ new and challenging theory are still unfolding and could be highly significant.

GlacierHub contacted other scientists who built their work on the Weertman theory for feedback on Stearns and van der Veen’s latest findings, but these scientists did not respond to GlacierHub’s request for comment.

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Climate Change Increases Flood Risk in Peru

The rising danger of glacial lake flooding in a warmer climate has important implications for humans and animal populations in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. A recent study in CATENA by Adam Emmer et al. examined a large swath of nearly 900 high altitude Peruvian lakes in the mountainous Cordillera Blanca region, studying their susceptibility to outburst floods in light of modern climate change.

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A variety of glacial lake sizes in the Cordillera Blanca (Source: Elizabeth Balgord).

An outburst flood occurs when the dam containing glacial meltwater, usually comprised of either glacial ice or a terminal moraine (glacial debris lying at the edge of the glacier), fails. Glaciologist Mauri Pelto commented in the American Geophysical newsletter that the moraine dams are “just comprised of gravel, sand and clay dumped by the glacier” and “high water levels caused by upstream floods, avalanches or landslides can cause failure,” leading to major damage of the landscape. The team’s research elucidated that the incidence of glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF) is increasing and the general distribution of alpine lakes is shifting upward in the region as temperatures warm. 

Knowing a lake’s size, configuration and type allows local water management in the Cordillera Blanca to be improved, according to Emmer et al. By mapping lakes with the classification of either moraine-dammed or bedrock-dammed, the team’s analysis can help local hydrological experts improve water management techniques for the changing distribution of alpine water. It also contributes to the scientific community’s overall understanding of ongoing environmental change.

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A large, high elevation glacial lake lying before the high Andes (Source: Elizabeth Balgord).

By studying the Cordillera Blanca region’s alpine lakes through a combination of remote sensing (high resolution aerial imagery and measurements) and field observations, Emmer’s team categorized 882 lakes by their size and altitude, ultimately referencing their findings with historical data to observe water redistribution over the last 60 years. Emmer et al. established that glacial lakes had expanded in size and number at higher elevations and disappeared at lower elevations since the 1951 study by Juan Concha in the same region. This finding confirms that environmental change and glacier retreat are strongly correlated in the high alpine.

Results from the analyses showed that from 1948 to 2013, lakes that remained in already deglaciated areas tended to be resilient and generally maintained water levels throughout the 65-year examination. Moraine-dammed lakes in particular resisted disappearing despite glacial retreat, suggesting that bodies of water dammed by materials other than ice were more adaptable to recently warmer temperatures. 

The team also noticed that despite the recent resiliency of moraine dammed lakes, glacial lake outburst flooding was caused predominantly by these dams in the early portion of the Cordillera Blanca’s glacial retreat, in the 1940s and 1950s. Flooding in more recent years has occurred in bedrock-dammed lakes. Although glacial lakes were recorded to have shifted from 4250-4600m in the late 1940s to predominantly above 4600m today, no statistically significant trend was established relating outburst flooding to any particular elevation.

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A research team gathered at the waters edge (Source: Elizabeth Balgord).

In order to reduce the risk of flood damage in local communities, Emmer et al. suggested continuous monitoring of young, developing proglacial lakes, using extensive flood modeling and outburst susceptibility assessments to account for future changes in the glacier. Understanding that the melting of glaciers is accelerating in a warming world, the need for more intensive local efforts in response to the threat of flooding is apparent.  

The Peruvian government has responded to high lake levels in the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca by “building tunnels and concrete pipes through the [weakest] moraines to allow lake drainage to safe levels,” according to Pelto. The government then rebuilds the moraines over the drainage system to strengthen it. By incorporating the monitoring techniques suggested by Adam Emmer, the government has the opportunity to manage and stay ahead of the flood risk as temperatures continue to rise. 

Glacial lake outburst flooding is hardly unique to the Peruvian landscape. This December, the Kathmandu Post illuminated the growing danger of GLOFs as the Nepalese Dhaulagiri Glacier recedes, creating a hazardous environment in the Mt. Nilgiri region. Researchers at the Chinese Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment also established a strong link in Tibet between rising temperatures and glacial melting, contributing to more frequent and larger glacial lakes than in the past 50 years. With the growing number of alpine lakes and increased temperatures, ice dams are highly fragile and prone to failure.

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A variety of landscapes exist at different elevations in the Peruvian Andes (Source: Elizabeth Balgord).

Emmer et al.’s study offers an interesting evolutionary perspective on the state of the Cordillera Blanca. The study’s publication illustrates that even the planet’s most dramatic, seemingly unchangeable environments are plastic under the force of global climate change. The redistribution of alpine glacial lakes across the world’s mountainous regions indicates that the risk of outburst flooding should not be taken lightly. The team’s suggestions for future monitoring, to either mitigate the flooding hazard in populated regions or coordinate adaptation efforts, further illustrates the gravity of the situation. Although the risk of outburst flooding has only been studied in specific locations, the changing state of glacial lakes is already quantifiable and may be an effective proxy for monitoring the future extent of global warming.

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Rediscovering Julius von Haast, Pioneer of Glaciology

In the history of glaciology, New Zealand’s German-born Julius von Haast ranks as an influential but otherwise little-known pioneer. In the 19th century, Haast’s scientific explorations led him to glacier-rich areas across New Zealand where he gave names to landforms, including the well-known Franz Josef, Hooker, and Mueller Glaciers on the West Coast’s South Island. A recent report by Sascha Nolden for the Canterbury Museum strives to recognize the overlooked life and legacy of Haast, who to this day continues to influence glacier researchers around the world.

Julius von Haast (Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)
Julius von Haast (Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand).

“Famous? No, Julius is not famous, even today,” said Joerg Schaefer, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, to GlacierHub. “But he was indeed a great explorer and glacier geologist in New Zealand. He was not only a fellow citizen of mine, but one of my heroes.”

Haast has served as a role model for modern-day scientists like Schaefer, with his work paving the way for future scientific research. “Our team has worked in New Zealand for 15 years following in Haast’s footsteps,” said Schaefer.

By scrutinizing archival material such as manuscripts, letters, photographs and sketches held in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Nolden carefully rediscovered Haast’s biography, documenting Haast’s notable research, exploration, institution-building and collegial cooperation that continues to influence today’s scientists.

“Haast was one of the leading New Zealand scientists of the second half of the nineteenth century,” writes Nolden, research librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, in his report. “He was a remarkable individual noted for his stamina and perseverance in the face of obstacles, ranging from the mountain wilderness to the tangles of provincial bureaucracy.”

Born in 1822 in Bonn, Germany, Haast first studied geology and mineralogy at the University of the Rhine, although he never graduated. He later spent time in the high mountains of New Zealand in the 1860s, visiting the region’s glaciers and making original watercolor sketches of the mountains. His sketches and maps have been useful to glaciologists as they attempt to date various landforms.

It was during Haast’s explorations in New Zealand that he began to give names to glaciers, creating what he called a “Pantheon” of landforms named for prominent individuals from leading scholars to emperors, according to chief paleontologist Charles Alexander Fleming. In addition, his studies of the effects of past glaciation became the basis for later works on glacier geology.

Painting of the Southern Alps from the Godley river bed, by John Gully, from a sketch by Johann Franz Julius von Haast (Source: the Alexander Turnbull Library)
Painting of the Southern Alps by John Gully, from a sketch by Julius von Haast (Source: The Alexander Turnbull Library).

In 1862, Haast specifically surveyed the geology of the Canterbury district and visited its glaciers. His mapping and mountaineering expeditions of Mueller Glacier, for example, became a valuable first-hand resource to Thomas Lowell et al.’s research on the Rhizocarpon calibration curve (an application tool to assess Little Ice Age glacier behavior) for the Aoraki/Mount Cook area.

In his report, Nolden references 165 of Haast’s drawings from South Island surveys from 1860 to 1868 that can be found in the Haast archives. Other panoramic watercolors of the Southern Alps and map sketches of the glacier geology of New Zealand are in private collections such as in the Hochstetter Collection Basel. In addition to these works, Haast published one book of his research, entitled “Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, New Zealand: A Report Comprising the Results of Official Explorations” (Haast 1879). Other useful, unpublished manuscripts written by Haast have also been located and preserved.

Interestingly, despite these archives, little is known about Haast’s early life. Almost everything written about him concerns what he did after arriving to New Zealand, a fact that is often frustrating to historians. The most complete source of Haast to date is a biography written by his son, Heinrich von Haast.

“For the biographer, Haast is a difficult subject,” writes Nolden in his report. “Relatively little is known about him for the period prior to his arrival in Auckland on 21 December 1858, and this is in no small part due to the subject’s own contribution to myths and misinformation.” Knowing about Haast’s upbringing, education, work, family and friends before he came to New Zealand might be helpful in explaining what drove him to accomplish so much during his lifetime.

Julius Haast, ‘From Spur about 6500 above sea level, leading to Mt Cook, over the Great Tasman Glacier & the Murchison Glacier.’ (Source: Dr Albert Schedl Collection, Vienna).
A sketch by Julius Haast of the Mt Cook area, over the Great Tasman Glacier & the Murchison Glacier (Source: Dr Albert Schedl Collection, Vienna).

Colin Burrows, a New Zealand plant ecology educator and professor at University of Canterbury, was one scientist who studied Haast’s explorations in New Zealand, especially the Southern Alps. His book, “Julius Haast in the Southern Alps,” published in 2005, retraces Haast’s exploratory journeys in the mountains and examines his theories of glaciation. But according to Nolden, much of what has been written and repeated about the life of Haast prior to his arrival in New Zealand has been largely based on conjecture.

“Haast’s efforts to forge a new identity for himself and escape his past have become more fully apparent with the present research,” writes Nolden in his report. “Haast was prepared to change both his identity and allegiances whenever it seemed to serve his purposes – to leave behind his past and build a better future for himself.”

What is clear about Haast is that he spent his life exploring, studying and innovating. Although he is not widely known today, his contributions to glaciology became the basis of modern glacier studies. Haast’s efforts reveal how the work of one scientist can pave the way for subsequent generations of scientists. Thanks to the recent efforts of the Canterbury Museum and historian Sascha Nolden, we now have a better understanding of the historic contributions of one of glacier geology’s early pioneers.

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Could Glaciology Use a Dose of Feminism?

A new study in Progress in Human Geography argues that the viewpoints of women and indigenous people are not being represented in glaciology and that a feminist perspective is needed to counterbalance this deficit.

Does feminist glaciology provide just a splash of media attention, or is this something the field really needs? (Photo:Tyler Corder/Flickr)
Does feminist glaciology just provide a splash of media attention, or is this something the field needs? (Photo:Tyler Corder/Flickr)

The authors—Mark Carey, M Jackson, Alessandro Antonello, and Jaclyn Rushing of the University of Oregon—are calling for a reimagining of what constitutes appropriate and usable knowledge in the natural sciences, especially glaciology. They argue that valuable perspectives are left out of glaciology because its history is steeped in military operations, as well as the fact that there is a current interest in risky fieldwork. The inclusion of marginalized viewpoints will allow for a more complete representation of glaciers, science, and climate change, they assert.

The study has garnered a great deal of attention for its provocative premise. Comments, blog posts, and articles have piled up since the study was published in January. Articles have mockingly called glaciers sexist or complained that the federal government wasted taxpayer dollars funding this study.

This research was funded by a grant awarded to Mark Carey by the National Science Foundation, who addressed criticism with a response that pointed out that only a small fraction of the grant went to this study.

The researchers found, after a thorough literature review, that the exclusion of women and indigenous people’s knowledge comes, in part, from a tradition of glaciers and the military. For example, during the Cold War, the United States viewed the Arctic as an area of strategic concern and began to prepare for military operations in the region.

The importance of learning how to survive and maneuver in those harsh Arctic areas provided “institutional resources, growth, standing, and credibility,” for glaciology, the authors argue. Thus, with the militarized history, the authors say that glaciology was influenced by colonialism, domination, and Western ideals that often ignore women and indigenous peoples. This history may have affected what is currently considered respected forms of glaciology.

USS Skate surfacing in the Arctic in 1959. The authors argue that the military (especially during the Cold War) had a large role in creating present-day glaciology. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
USS Skate surfacing in the Arctic in 1959. The authors argue that the military (especially during the Cold War) had a large role in creating present-day glaciology. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

The authors say that though there are various ways to study glaciers (like modeling, experiments, and satellites), the one that garners the most attention— and therefore funding and validity— is traditionally-masculine fieldwork.

Glaciologist Garry Clarke told GlacierHub in an email that he finds this type of “[a]dventure ‘Rambo’ glaciology,” along with other points brought forth in the study, “embarrassing to most glacier scientists.” Even so, researchers working within harsh glacial conditions are often considered heroes. The authors argue that when prominent publications feature stories that focus more on the adventure, rather than the science, of glaciology, they perpetuate the validation of risk.

Lead author Mark Carey said their aim was to provide a broad perspective on the field, rather than critique individuals or their activities.

“Note that we are talking about how broader sociocultural values influence the reception and perception of science, not about individual scientists and whether their science is valuable or solid, which is not the point,” Carey said in an interview with Science.

The authors concluded that risk-taking fieldwork in the sciences not only often excludes women, but also those who cannot afford to become mountaineers. By only validating physically-demanding activities by affluent researchers, glaciology loses key knowledge that could advance the field.

Glaciologist Elisabeth Isaksson of the Norwegian Polar Institute told GlacierHub in an email that she may have “rolled her eyes” at this paper a few years ago, but upon further reflection and discussions with her peers she has come to realize the importance of a study like this one.

“Being a somewhat older female glaciologist I do think it is time to put the limelight on many of these aspects so I welcome a paper like this! However, some of the aspects brought up in the paper might be unknown for the younger generations who has been brought up in a more gender equal scientific world…”

Villagers crossing a glacier. The authors argue that local knowledge is not utilized enough in glaciology.(Photo:Sajith T S/Flickr)
Villagers crossing a glacier. The authors argue that local knowledge is not utilized enough in glaciology.(Photo: Sajith T S/Flickr)

The authors were also concerned with the lack of non-scientific perspectives. They found that while women were the members of indigenous societies who managed water usage, irrigation, and otherwise interacted intimately with glaciers, their knowledge has not been seen as critical or useful to traditional glaciologists.

Not only do women hold key knowledge, they are also disproportionately affected by climate change and glacier risks.

“Women might be less able to migrate out of a flood zone during a sudden glacier melt. In Peru, we know that men migrate to the cities for jobs, whereas women are more confined to their homes and child rearing,”  Carey said in a press release for the study.

Because these women often do not read or write, the authors argue that researchers should utilize techniques such as “audio-visual storytelling” in glacier communities to showcase cultural perspectives. Similarly, the authors suggest that art, such as that by Zaria Forman, is a way to “re-position and re-envision glaciers as greater than their usual status as passive research subjects…”

Another antidote the authors mention is to simply include more women in fieldwork. The study points to a program in Alaska, Girls on Ice, which teaches girls mountaineering skills. Though the authors argues that this program still expects girls to conform to traditionally-masculine fieldwork, they see this approach as crucial.

The girls of Girls on Ice ascending Gulkana Glacier (Photo :Alaska Climate Science Center)
The girls of Girls on Ice ascending Gulkana Glacier. (Photo: Alaska Climate Science Center)

The authors do acknowledge the current increase in female participation in fieldwork, but argue that it still fails to adequately address cultural and other non-scientific perspectives.

This study does not aim to eliminate traditional glaciology, but rather to have glaciologists incorporate other perspectives to insure a deeper understanding of glaciers, as well as climate change, which is made slightly more tangible through the study of glaciers.

Carey told Science that “[their] goal was to ask questions about the role of gender in science and knowledge—to start a conversation, not conclude the discussion.”

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Photo Friday: Images from an Andean Expedition

Gustavo Valdivia, an anthropology PhD student at Johns Hopkins University, as well as a former contributor to GlacierHub, went on an expedition to Quelccaya Glacier in the Peruvian Andes this summer, led by the prominent glaciologist Lonnie Thompson. In a recent email to GlacierHub, he wrote, “In these photos, I try to document the way that a major scientific team interacts with a very specific place–the melting ice of Quelccaya, which is a component of the complex Andean mountain environment–in order to produce knowledge about a global phenomenon–climate. The fact that Quelccaya is retreating so rapidly gives urgency to their research and to my photos.”

Gustavo joined the expedition as part of his dissertation research, in which he plans to investigate how the Andes mountains are represented in the field of climate science and the degree of understanding about climate and climate change in local Andean communities. You can read more about his work here.

Many thanks to Gustavo for sharing some of his expedition photos with us:  [slideshow_deploy id=’6016′]

Salvage Science: Climate Change and Paleo-glaciology in an Andean Glacier

Explaining the expedition more fully, Gustavo writes:

In the summer of 2015 I joined Lonnie Thompson and his team from the Byrd Polar Research Center of The Ohio State University, in their expedition to the Quelccaya, the largest tropical glacier in the world, located in the Peruvian Andes. My interest to join this expedition as an anthropologist was quite simple: to produce an ethnographically grounded account of the process through which ice obtained from this glacier is processed, documented and made available for the ends of scientific climate research. To this end, I wanted to explore the methods of observation and reflection, sensing technologies, epistemological assumptions, and field practices of this very influential climate research team. Once in Quelccaya, however, I started to understand better that this team’s practices of investigation and experimentation, required much more than just their passive submission to the rigorous dictates of the so-called “scientific method”. On the contrary, the forms of scientific knowledge production that were shaped in the interaction with the melting ice of this glacier, and the complexities of the Andean environment; had to do with both scientific cultivated dispositions but also with sensory intuitions, passion and imagination.

Gustavo wrote a previous article for GlacierHub in 2014 in which he documented a summer trip to Quelccaya. During this expedition, he and an experimental musician recorded the sounds of the glacier’s ice as it melted, which you can listen to here.

 

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Glacier Meeting in Kathmandu

A technical session in progress at the IGS Symposium.  Photo credit: Jitendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD
A technical session in progress at the IGS Symposium.
Photo credit: Jitendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD

Kathmandu, a Nepalese valley with a rich cultural and religious history, was the venue for the International Symposium on Glaciology in High-Mountain Asia early this month. From March 1 to 6, 240 scientists from 26 countries gathered there to further interdisciplinary understanding of the science of glaciers, snowpack, and permafrost in the high-mountain Asia region—the Himalayan, Hindu-Kush, Karakoram, Tien Shan, Pamir, and Tibetan Plateau mountain chains. The conference was organized by the International Glaciological Society (IGS) and hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Livelihoods in high mountain Asia. Photo credit:  Jitendra Raj Bajracharya, ICIMOD.
Livelihoods in high mountain Asia. Photo credit: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya, ICIMOD.

IGS, founded in 1936, aims to stimulate interest in and encourage research into the scientific and technical problems of snow and ice in all countries; ICIMOD is a regional intergovernmental organization aimed at spreading knowledge about the impacts of climate change on the Hindu Kush Himalayas of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan—both their fragile ecosystems and the communities that live there.

Participants of the symposium exchanged the latest research findings on glaciers and glacier contribution to river flow in high-mountain Asia. This researched looked at past, present and future glacier change, glacier dynamics modeling and observations, glacier and snow melt and glacier hazards, among other subjects. While the coming together of so many scientists and specialists in the field helped to fill knowledge gaps across the region, additional questions were raised during the symposium. In particular, participants believe a more complete and accurate picture of glacier change must still be achieved. Field observations, improved models, inter-comparisons of models, and regional data sharing are considered among the most critical directions and needs for future research.

Young Scientist Panel at the IGS Symposium, moderated by David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. Photo credit: Jitendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD
Young Scientist Panel at the IGS Symposium, moderated by David Molden, Director General of ICIMOD. Photo credit: Jitendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD

The high-mountain regions in Asia have been more acutely impacted by climate change than many other regions of the world in recent years, given the high concentrations of glacier ice found here. Glacial melt has overwhelmed not just regional ecosystems, but traditional livelihoods. These glaciers feed rivers that support the agriculture and livelihoods of over one billion people and are crucial for hydroelectric power generation. In addition, accelerated melting can aggravate natural hazards such as flooding and avalanches.

Creating an interdisciplinary understanding of glaciers was one of the primary focuses of the symposium. Glaciology brings together the atmospheric and hydrologic sciences, required to understand the connections between atmospheric processes and cryospheric change, as well as downstream impacts in the region. The cryosphere is defined as the part of Earth’s surface that consists of solid water, including snow cover, glaciers, ice sheets and ice caps, among other formations, and which plays a critical role in global climate and its changes. The interdisciplinary approach to glaciers in the region has provided the opportunity to capture regional and local changes in glaciers, snow and water availability.

The view of Eastern Himalaya--cryosphere. Photo credit: Asha Kaji Thaku, ICIMOD.   
The view of Eastern Himalaya–cryosphere. Photo credit: Asha Kaji Thaku, ICIMOD.

Scientists also discussed advances in measurements, modeling, and interpretation of glaciological changes in high mountain Asia, in order to better understand the impacts of these changes. While there is evidence of glacier retreat in the eastern Himalayas and glacier melt rates are projected to rise, river flows will not decline significantly in the coming decades due to projected increases in precipitation. It is one of the major findings presented at the conference. Meanwhile, scientists noticed that the Karakoram glaciers have been identified as an anomaly in the region, given that they are not experiencing retreat, something that has not yet been fully explained by scientific research. The IGS president Doug MacAyeal pointed out at the symposium that the role of debris cover and black carbon in glacier melt is still unclear, and the insufficient observations of high-altitude precipitation remains unsolved.

The results of the meeting will be published in Annals of Glaciology and through the IGS website in August.

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