GlacierHub’s Top Stories of 2017

As you get ready to kick off 2018, take a look back at some of GlacierHub’s top stories of 2017.

 

Venezuela Is Losing its Last Glacier

“Venezuela used to have five glaciers. Today, only one remains. The last glacier in Venezuela, the Humboldt glacier, is about to disappear. “Reduced to an area of ten football pitches, a tenth of its size 30 years ago, it will be gone within a decade or two,” reports The Economist. Once Venezuela loses the Humbolt, it will become the first country in modern history to have lost all of its glaciers.

The glacier is expected to completely vanish in ten to twenty years, and scientists have expressed the importance of studying the glacier in its last stages. However, the political and economic crisis in Venezuela makes it difficult to study the glacier. In the past, studies have shown how rapid glacier retreat affects the water cycle in glacier-dependent basins, which changes water regulation and availability. Thus, the disappearance of the Humboldt glacier will impact local communities as run-off stability and water supply for agriculture change.”

Read the story here.

Humboldt Glacier, 9 January 2013 (Source: Hendrick Sanchez/Creative Commons).

 

World Bank Study Proposes Solutions to Bolivia’s Water Crisis

“Bolivia is currently in the midst of the worst drought in twenty-five years following decades of intense water crises, including an infamous “water war” in 2000 in the city of Cochabamba in which tens of thousands of Bolivians protested the privatization of water. To cope with the current situation, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has declared a national state of emergency, imposed stricter water rationing, and even fired a top water official, but can more be done to alleviate the crisis?

In a recent report for the World Bank Group, Sarah Botton et al. cover the current crisis and explain how a blend of “big system” water infrastructure, in which a single operator manages the piped system, and “small system” infrastructure, in which individuals informally control water resources, can help conditions in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, and El Alto, a large adjacent city known for its high elevation and largely indigenous population.”

Read the story here.

La Paz residents wait in line to fill water buckets (Source: Water Mark/Twitter).

 

A New Glacier Grows at Mount St. Helens

“‘I grew up in the Yakima Valley (near Mount St. Helens). I was out fishing when I saw the lightning and dark cloud,” Flickr user vmf-214, who captured the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, told GlacierHub. “It looked like a storm. I saw it as I pulled into the yard. Mom came out and said the mountain had blown.’ He was describing the volcanic eruption that occurred at Mount St. Helens 37 years ago in May 1980. During that event, an eruption column rose into the sky, ultimately impacting 11 states in the U.S. But it wasn’t just the people who live in the area that were affected by the eruption: the glaciers of Mount St. Helens melted into nearby rivers, causing several mudslides.

Cascades Volcano Observatory indicates that before the 1980 eruption, extensive glaciers had covered Mount St. Helens for several hundred thousand years. About 3,900 years ago, Mount St. Helens began to grow to its pre-eruption elevation and a high cone developed, allowing for substantial glacial formation. There were 11 major glaciers and several unnamed glaciers by May 18, 1980, according to the United States Geological Survey. But after the eruption and resultant landslide, about 70 percent of the glacier mass was removed from the mountainside. It was during the winter of 1980 to 1981, following the catastrophic eruption, that a new glacier, Crater Glacier, first emerged.”

Read the story here.

Hike into Mt. St. Helens (Source: buen viaje/Flickr).

 

New Research Offers Fresh Insight into the Iceman’s Death

“Ötzi, also known as the Iceman, is showing new signs of life – in his gut. Gabriele Andrea Lugli and other researchers from the University of Parma recently publishedfindings on the Iceman in Microbiome Journal. Their research analyzes samples taken from Ötzi’s gut in order to reconstruct and characterize ancient bacteria to provide clues on how bacteria may have affected humans. While some evidence suggests that the Iceman was murdered or died from the lingering effects of an attack, researchers have now uncovered a new possible cause of death: inflammatory bowel disease.”

Read the story here.

Ancient bacteria, such as the ones found in Ötzi’s gut, can provide clues on the history of diseases (Source: Archaeology Magazine/Instagram).

 

Polar Bears and Ringed Seals: A Relationship in Transition

“Along the tidal glacier fronts of Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway and the North Pole, polar bears have changed their hunting practices. A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology indicates the new behavior is a response to rapidly disappearing sea ice. Charmain Hamilton and other researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute mapped changes in the spatial overlap between coastal polar bears and their primary prey, ringed seals, to better understand how the bears are responding to climate change. The results don’t bode well for the long-term survival of polar bear populations: as sea ice continues to shrink in area, ringed seals—calorie-rich prey that are high in fat— have become increasingly difficult to catch during the summer and autumn. The bears are now finding sources of sustenance elsewhere: in the archipelago’s thriving bird colonies.”

Read the story here.

A Svalbard polar bear eats a ringed seal on a calved piece of glacier ice (Source: Kit Kovacs and Christian Lydersen/Norwegian Polar Institute).

 

A New View on Border Tensions between India and China

“Numerous disputes exist in remote regions of the world where the terrain makes it difficult to secure and manage borders. One well-known example is the Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas. Known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), this line demarcating the frontier between Indian and Chinese-controlled territory is the longest disputed land border in the world. Natural, human and technological issues complicate the management of this disputed border, as explained by Iskander Rehman in a paper published in the most recent issue of the Naval War College Review.”

Read the story here.

Soldiers at India-China border (Source: Army Complex/Twitter).

 

The Largest Glacier in East Antarctica is Starting to Melt

“Researchers have generally thought that the East Antarctic Ice sheet has remained relatively stable despite global warming. But this is not the case, according to a recent study published in Science Advances. Chad Greene and a team of researchers discovered that the Totten, the largest glacier in East Antarctica, is melting. Shockingly, if the Totten Glacier were to melt entirely, it could raise sea levels by 11 feet.”

Read the story here.

Schematic of the Totten Glacier situation with relative positions of the glacier in Antarctica and the upwelling zone (Source: Chad Greene)
Schematic of the Totten Glacier situation with relative positions of the glacier in Antarctica and the upwelling zone (Source: Chad Greene).

 

Roundup: Venezuela, Peru, and the Storglaciären

The Death of a Venezuela Glacier

The Economist: “Venezuela is a tropical country, with rainforest in the south and east, and baking savannah stretching towards its northern Caribbean coast. The Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range in the north-west offers relief from the heat. In 1991 five glaciers occupied nooks near their peaks. Now, just one remains, lodged into a cwm west of Pico Humboldt. Reduced to an area of ten football pitches, a tenth of its size 30 years ago, it will be gone within a decade or two. Venezuela will then be the first country in the satellite age to have lost all its glaciers.”

Read more about Venezuela’s Humboldt Glacier here.

The Humboldt Glacier in Venezuela (Source: The Photographer/Creative Commons).

Small-Scale Farmers’ Vulnerability in the Peruvian Andes

From Iberoamericana: “Previous studies have shown that climatic changes in the Peruvian Andes pose a threat to lowland communities, mainly through changes in hydrology. This study uses a case study approach and a mixed qualitative-quantitative method to examine the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in the Quillcay River basin to variations in precipitation and enhanced glacier retreat. The findings of the study show partly contradicting results. On one hand, interpretation of semi-structured interviews suggests a strong relation between climate proxies and increased vulnerability of the smallholders. On the other hand, in the quantitative analysis enhanced glacier retreat seemed to have augmented vulnerability solely to some extent whereas precipitation did not show significant impact.”

Learn more about climate change in the Peruvian Andes here.

Small-scale farmers in the Peruvian Andes sowing maize and beans (Source: Goldengreenbird/Creative Commons).

 

A Glacier-Permafrost Relationship in Sweden

From Quaternary Research: “Here, we present empirical ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electroresistivity tomography data (ERT) to verify the cold-temperate transition surface-permafrost base (CTS-PB) axis theoretical model. The data were collected from Storglaciären, in Tarfala, Northern Sweden, and its forefield. The GPR results show a material relation between the glacial ice and the sediments incorporated in the glacier, and a geophysical relation between the ‘cold ice’ and the ‘temperate ice’ layers…The results show how these surfaces form a specific continuous environmental axis; thus, both glacial and periglacial areas can be treated uniformly as a specific continuum in the geophysical sense.”

Read more about the study at Storglaciären here.

The Storglaciären or “The Great Glacier” in Sweden (Source: SAGT/Flickr).