Roundup: Ice911, Glacier Tourism in New Zealand, and Ice Stupas

A novel approach to fighting climate change

From the Daily Mail:

“A newly devised type of silica bead could help save melting glaciers from the onslaught of climate change, scientists say.

The innovative new approach, developed by a company called Ice911, employs minuscule beads of ‘glass’ which are spread across the surface layer of glaciers.

There they help to reflect light beating down on them and slow what has become a tremendous pace of melt throughout the last several years.

‘I just asked myself a very simple question: Is there a safe material that could help replace that lost reflectivity?’ Found of Ice911, Leslie Field, told Mother Jones.”

Read more here.

Ice911’s silica beads could increase the albedo of glacier surfaces, helping to stave off melting. (Source: Ice911)

Investigating the impact of glacier melt on tourism

From the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism:

“Aoraki Mount Cook National Park in the New Zealand Southern Alps attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. However, this iconic alpine destination is changing due to rapid glacial recession. To explore the implications of environmental change on visitor experience, this study adopted a mixed-methods approach, combining geophysical measurement with visitor surveys (n = 400) and semi-structured interviews with key informants (n = 12) to explore the implications of environmental change on visitor experience. We found the key drawcard to the park is Aoraki the mountain, with the glaciers playing a secondary role. Visitors had a strong awareness of climate change, but somewhat ironically, one of the key adaptive strategies to maintaining mountain access has been an increase in the use of aircraft. Opportunities exist for a strengthening of geo-interpretation in the park that not only educates but also encourages people towards more sustainable life choices.”

Read the study here.

Blue Lake in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the South Island, New Zealand (Source: Krzysztof Golik/Wikimedia Commons)

The politics of place

From the journal Water Alternatives:

“Jeff Malpasʼ concept of place as a bounded, open, and emergent structure is used in this article to understand the reasons for the differences in villagersʼ responses to ‘artificial glaciers’, or ‘Ice stupas’, built in two different places in the Himalayan village of Phyang, in Ladakh. Using archival material, geographic information system tools and ethnographic research, this study reveals how Phyang as a village is constituted by interacting ecological-technical, socio-symbolic, and bureaucratic-legal boundaries. It is observed that technologies such as land revenue records, and cadastral maps, introduced in previous processes of imperialist state formation, continue to inform water politics in this Himalayan region. It is further demonstrated how this politics is framed within the village of Phyang, but also shifts its boundaries to create the physical, discursive, and symbolic space necessary for projects like the Ice stupa to emerge. By examining the conflict through the lens of place, it is possible to identify the competing discursive frames employed by different stakeholders to legitimise their own projects for developing the arid area (or Thang) where the contested Ice stupa is located. Such an analysis allows critical water scholarship to understand both how places allow hydrosocial relationships to emerge, and how competing representations of place portray these relationships. Understanding the role of place in the constitution of hydrosocial relationships allows for a more nuanced appraisal of the challenges and opportunities inherent in negotiating development interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. It is also recommended that scholars studying primarily the institutional dimensions of community-managed resource regimes consider the impact on these institutions of technological artefacts such as the high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes used to construct the Ice stupas.”

Read the study here.

Ice stupas near Phyang monastery in Ladakh (Source: Sumita Roy Dutta/Wikimedia Commons)

Read more on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: Inside the Final Negotiations of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere

Pakistan Could Be Left High and Dry Even If Nations Achieve Paris Climate Targets

Antarctic Fungi Provides a Window into the Past and Future

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Fox Glacier

This week’s Photo Friday features Fox Glacier, one of New Zealand’s most famous glaciers. It is located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, among the Southern Alps on the South Island.

Fox Glacier begins at an elevation of over 3000 meters, and descends to a final elevation of just 300 meters above sea level. On its journey from the mountains of the Southern Alps into a temperate rainforest climate right on the coast, Fox Glacier stretches a total length of 13.1 kilometers.

Fox Glacier is a temperate maritime, or “warm glacier,” meaning its ice exists at its melting point of 0°C. This, along with the wide snow accumulation area and steep, narrow tongue of Fox Glacier, makes it extremely responsive to small temperature and mass balance changes.

From 1983 to 2008, New Zealand experienced a cluster of cold years, influenced by short-term natural climate variability. Of New Zealand’s 3,000+ glaciers, Fox Glacier was one of 58 that advanced in this time period.

From 2009 to the present, however, Fox Glacier––along with a majority of New Zealand’s glaciers––has entered a period of significant retreat. In 2017, the glacier’s length was the shortest it had ever been in recorded history, and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Fox Glacier, along with neighboring Franz Josef Glacier, is one of the world’s most easily accessible glaciers, and is a popular tourist attraction. Both Fox and Franz Josef feature iconic, magnificently sculpted blue ice caves.

As a result of massive retreat in recent years, Fox Glacier now is directly accessible only by helicopter––some 150,000 people a year take these scenic flight tours. On foot, visitors can hike to a scenic overlook, but logistics have limited guided walks to around 80,000 people a year, less than half of what it used to be.

In March 2019, a massive landslide blocked the Fox Glacier access road to both vehicles and pedestrians. In the months following, the small town of Fox Glacier has suffered immensely from the lack of tourism, its primary source of revenue. As of June 21, 2019, access to the road was still closed off.

Read more on GlacierHub:

Measuring the Rise and Fall of New Zealand’s Small and Medium Glaciers

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier

The Curious Case of New Zealand’s Shrinking Glaciers

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier

This week’s Photo Friday features the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. At over 23 kilometers, the glacier is the longest of New Zealand’s more than 3,000 glaciers.

The photographer, Ryan Force, took the image from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint. Force and his wife, Marissa, honeymooned on the island by campervan. They intended to park near Mount Cook, the country’s highest peak, and hike to a promontory to view the glacier. But heavy rains in the region days earlier washed out a bridge on the road to the access point. The photo below was as close to the Tasman Glacier as the newlyweds were able to get.

The rock and debris covered Tasman Glacier seen from the southwest shore of Tasman Lake (Source: Ryan Force).

The Tasman Glacier is in rapid retreat. The body of milky grey water in the foreground of Force’s photo is Tasman Lake, which formed as the glacier’s ice melted and continues to grow as the glacier recedes.

In 1973 there was no lake in front of the Tasman Glacier, according to Martin Brook, a lecturer in physical geography at New Zealand’s Massey University. The lake is now 7 kilometers long, 2 kilometers wide, and 245 meters deep.

A significant ice calving event in February of this year created a two-meter surge that damaged a jetty and several boat trailers on Tasman Lake, the BBC reported.

A sign at the Tasman Glacier lookout informs tourists of the glacier’s decline. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation uses the visual display of their rapidly retreating glaciers as an opportunity to raise awareness about climate change.

A sign board installed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation documents the Tasman Glacier’s ablation (Source: Ryan Force).

“We felt a bit defeated,” Force told GlacierHub of the experience. “I felt a little frustration that in the next 50 years, this beautiful landscape might be gone entirely because we as a species put our heads in the sand and refused to take action.”

A 2015 study on the implications of climate change for glacier tourism in New Zealand found glaciers to be a fundamental motivation for visitors, finding a “last chance dimension” luring visitors to the glaciers.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation estimated that 945,000 people visited Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in 2018. The surge in visitors to the park, which contains the Tasman Glacier, is a 17.5 percent increase from the previous year.

An aerial photo of a helicopter landing on a glacier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps (Source: Ryan Force).

Although travelers produce a substantial carbon footprint through last-chance tourism, it may help bolster the sense of place attachment and identity that encourages tourists to engage in carbon offsetting, GlacierHub reported last month. People sometimes build personal connections to places they visit, and this value they put on locations may lead them to take meaningful action to preserve them.

“It was so valuable to actually see it firsthand,” said Force. “This was the first time I saw with my own eyes what the results looked like, instead of reading about them in an article or seeing it in a documentary. I walked away wanting to do more.”

Read more on GlacierHub:

Glaciers Get New Protections with Passage of Natural Resources Act

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

The Dead of Mount Everest Are Seeing the Light of Day


Measuring the Rise and Fall of New Zealand’s Small and Medium Glaciers

Resulting from an unprecedented marine heatwave, the nationwide average temperature in New Zealand for the record-breaking summer of 2017-2018 was 18.1oC, over 2oC above average. Sea surface temperatures varied from 2-4oC above average and even reached 6-7oC above in some areas, the highest temperature anomalies in the world at the time. More, small and medium-sized glaciers in New Zealand’s Southern Alps lost over 13 percent of their total ice volume.

The Southern Alps mountain range, which cuts diagonally across New Zealand’s South Island, is home to over 3,000 small and medium-sized glaciers, which respond to climatic changes––both anthropogenic and natural––much faster than large glaciers. Since the last Little Ice Age ended in 1860, these glaciers in the Southern Alps have notably receded, save for four periods of advancement: around 1950, 1980-1987, 1991-1997, and 2004-2008.

Aerial view of the Southern Alps, New Zealand (Source: Tim Williams/Flickr).

In a new study, published in the International Journal of Climatology, lead researcher Michael J. Salinger of Pennsylvania State University and his co-researchers provide new estimates of glacier ice volume changes and the impact of climate variability on New Zealand’s small and medium-sized glaciers. From 1977 to 2018, the total ice volume of small and medium glaciers went from 26.6 to 17.9 cubic kilometers, a 33 percent decrease.

The researchers utilized a 42-year set of measurements––an annual measurement of the altitude of the end-of-summer-snowline (EOSS)––from 1977 to 2018 to calculate the ice volume changes for a sample of 50 glaciers in the Southern Alps. The EOSS is the boundary between the current year’s new, clean snow and older, dirty snow and is measured in mid to late March, which is the end of New Zealand’s snowy season.

If a particular year experiences lots of melting, the snow line rises in elevation, whereas if snow accumulation exceeds ablation, the snow line will move down. “It’s like doing your annual budget reconciliation,” said Salinger. “So on the 31st of March, [you are] working out whether you’ve received more or less income.”

When researcher and co-author Trevor Chinn started the EOSS monitoring program in 1977, Chinn calculated the volume for all of the over 3,000 glaciers he had mapped. Salinger explained that for this study, the researchers looked at current EOSS elevation compared to years past, using that information to work out the area lost or gained, then convert that to volume of water. “I can work out the glacier contribution from sea level rise, and what I’ve found is that it has been much higher than expected,” he noted.

Valley at an entrance to the snow-covered mountains of the Southern Alps (Source: Richard/Flickr).

Natural climate variability was a primary contributor to interannual fluctuations in glacier ice volume during this time period, even though anthropogenic warming is ultimately responsible for the accelerating downward trend. Volume gains in the 1980s and 1990s were offset and quickly surpassed by rapidly accelerating ice loss from 1998-2018.

The primarily land-covered mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere are much different compared to the mostly ocean-covered midlatitudes of the Southern Hemisphere, which results in strong westerly winds. Salinger cited the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) as the most important source of variability in the Southern Hemisphere. “You can think of the [SAM] as squeezing and relaxing of the westerlies, or the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties as we call them, over the Southern Ocean,” said Salinger.

In its negative phase, the SAM produces enhanced westerlies, cooler weather, and storm activity. In the positive phase, the strong westerlies move south while westerlies in the mid-latitudes weaken, and the weather gets warmer.

“Temperatures go up and you get less precipitation producing weather and more rain than snow precipitation,” said Salinger. The SAM usually fluctuates between positive and negative phases over weeks to months, but in response to anthropogenic warming, it is becoming increasingly positive.

Salinger noted that to a lesser extent, the El Niño Southern Oscillation also causes interannual climate variability in New Zealand. During an El Niño event, the equatorial easterly trade winds are subject to westerly wind anomalies, which would enhance the negative phase of SAM, leading to even cooler temperatures. La Niña pulls the trade winds in the opposite direction, further weakening westerlies over New Zealand and contributing to more warming.

As anthropogenic warming intensified over the last century, glaciers all around the world retreated, losing ice volume, and contributing to sea level rise. At the same time, natural climate variations happening on interannual and decadal timescales also worked to temporarily offset this massive retreat, even contributing to periodic glacier advances for small and medium-sized glaciers in New Zealand. Ultimately though, glaciers are driven primarily by temperature, and so the impacts of the global warming trend will prevail.

Fox Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand (Source: CameliaTWU/Flickr).

Changing glacier ice volumes throughout New Zealand pose great risks to the country, which relies heavily on hydropower for energy production and on tourism and agriculture for economic output. Salinger cited recent agricultural droughts on the South Island, and the mounting problems faced by farmers without access to irrigation on tap.

Interestingly, New Zealand uses the visual of their rapidly retreating glaciers as an opportunity to raise awareness about climate change. “Our glaciers are iconic, and people are not too far from them, so they are very familiar with them. They’ve seen the huge retreat of some of the glaciers up valleys with melting, because of global warming. It’s something tangible and people can see the long-term change,” said Salinger. “So that’s why we find our glaciers as sort of the canary in the coal mine.”

Read more on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Glacier Retreat from Space

The Curious Case of New Zealand’s Shrinking Glaciers

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


Roundup: New Zealand’s ‘Sad and Dirty’ Glaciers, Dead Bodies on Mount Everest, and a Surprise in Greenland

Brutal heat in New Zealand

From the New Zealand Herald:

“New Zealand’s famous glaciers are looking ‘sad and dirty’ after another brutally warm summer, says a scientist who took part in this year’s aerial stocktake.

Each year, the Niwa-led snowline survey checks the health of about 50 glaciers across the Southern Alps.

After the record-hot summer of 2017-18, scientists were struck by how many mountains had been stripped of ice and snow.

The latest flight, undertaken last week, and following New Zealand’s third warmest summer, found many of the glaciers still in a sorry state — and some had disappeared altogether.”

Franz Josef Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Jörg Hempel)

Melting glaciers expose bodies of dead climbers on Mount Everest

From theBBC:

“Nearly 300 mountaineers have died on the peak since the first ascent attempt and two-thirds of bodies are thought still to be buried in the snow and ice.

Bodies are being removed on the Chinese side of the mountain, to the north, as the spring climbing season starts.

More than 4,800 climbers have scaled the highest peak on Earth.

‘Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,’ said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of [the] Nepal Mountaineering Association.

‘We have brought down dead bodies of some mountaineers who died in recent years, but the old ones that remained buried are now coming out.'”

Most of the bodies that have surfaced have been found on the Khumbu Icefall section of Mount Everest. (Source: Flickr/robatwilliams)

Greenland’s Jakobshavn is advancing, slowing, and thickening

From Nature Geoscience: “Jakobshavn Isbrae has been the single largest source of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet over the last 20 years. During that time, it has been retreating, accelerating, and thinning. Here we use airborne altimetry and satellite imagery to show that since 2016 Jakobshavn has been re-advancing, slowing, and thickening. We link these changes to concurrent cooling of ocean waters in Disko Bay that spill over into Ilulissat Icefjord. Ocean temperatures in the bay’s upper 250 [meters] have cooled to levels not seen since the mid 1980s. Observations and modeling trace the origins of this cooling to anomalous wintertime heat loss in the boundary current that circulates around the southern half of Greenland. Longer time series of ocean temperature, subglacial discharge, and glacier variability strongly suggest that ocean-induced melting at the front has continued to influence glacier dynamics after the disintegration of its floating tongue in 2003. We conclude that projections of Jakobshavn’s future contribution to sea-level rise that are based on glacier geometry are insufficient, and that accounting for external forcing is indispensable.”

Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier has been advancing, slowing, and thickening since 2016. (Source: Flickr/Kristine Riskær)

Read More on GlacierHub:

Unearthing Rock Glaciers: Hidden, Hydrological Landforms

What Snow Algae in the Pacific Northwest Could Reveal About Life on Mars

Photo Friday: Mount Baker Is Letting Off Some Steam

Roundup: Himalayan GLOFS, Glacier-Fed Rivers in Peru, and New Zealand’s Southern Alps

Trends in GLOF Risk in the Himalayas

From Nature: “Objectively estimating trends in GLOF frequency is challenging as many lakes form in terrain with limited access, making fieldwork impractical. In the HKKHN, outburst floods from glacier lakes initiated mainly between 4,500 and 5,200 m above sea level and some attenuated rapidly, possibly escaping notice in human settlements several thousand vertical metres below. Reliable reports on 40 GLOFs since 1935 are selective. We mapped these GLOFs, originally compiled by regional initiatives, highlighting 32 cases in the Central and Eastern Himalayas in contrast to the very few cases in the northwestern Hindu Kush–Karakoram (HKK) and Nyainqentanglha Mountains. We speculate that these 40 reports preferentially covered large or destructive cases, which makes the assessment of their frequency problematic. In trying to account for this reporting bias, our objective is to estimate GLOF frequency and its changes from a systematic inventory covering the entire HKKHN.”

GLOFs from the Himalayan glaciers can be damaging to surrounding communities. (Source: Karunakar Rayker/Flickr)

New Project Examines Changes in Peru’s River Systems

From Phys.org: “Remote communities in the Peruvian Andes, as well as communities downstream, depend on the water from melting glaciers and mountain ecosystems to provide them with food and power, and to support industry.

But climate change is increasingly putting that in jeopardy, posing a serious threat to future water resources and having potentially severe implications for the vulnerable populations living in river basins-fed by the glaciers.

Now a major research project is looking to establish the precise effects future changes in the glacial system might pose, and how agencies and the communities themselves can work together to mitigate the potential effects of changing water quantity and quality as the glacier retreat.”

Glaciers are extensive in Peru, and many of the nation’s people depend on glacier-red rivers for basic water needs. (Source: McKay Savage/Flickr)

Climate Change Likely to Impact Glacier-Fed Rivers in New Zealand

From International Journal of Climatology: “Future climate change is likely to alter the amount, seasonality and distribution of water available for economic use downstream of alpine areas, so there is a need to forecast glacier net mass loss when assessing future hydrological change. This issue is of considerable relevance to New Zealand, which relies heavily on hydro power for electricity generation. An important river system is the Waitaki, which contains eight hydro generating stations and has a significant input from seasonal snow and glacier melt. Thus, changes in glacier ice volume and atmospheric circulation have long term implications for energy production. The impacts of climate change on water resources are also critical for the Clutha River. This is New Zealand’s largest river with extensive hydro-electricity and irrigation assets. Third, there are close links between glaciers and the large tourism industry in New Zealand, which along with agriculture, is the major driver of the national economy. All these factors mean that there is growing economic concern as to what may happen in the future.”

New Zealand Southern Alps consist of small and large glaciers that respond differently to climate forces. (Source: CameliaTWU/Flickr)

Read More on GlacierHub:

Last-Chance Tourism Spurs Eco-Conciousness and Climate Change

Blood Falls: Origins and Life in Subglacial Environments

Nevado Ausangate Glaciers, Peru Retreat, and Lake Formation

Video of the Week: Shedding Light on Glaciers

This week, journey to New Zealand’s largest glacier as Heath Patterson captures photographers Vaughan Brookfield and Tom Lynch and their attempt to literally shine a light on the impact of climate change through visual art.

After remaining at a constant length for all of its recorded history in the 20th century, the Tasman Glacier is now in a period of retreat. Brookfield and Lynch projected images on to the rapidly receding glacier to “remind people of the effects humans are having on the environment.”

This project was made possible by Canon Australia’s “Show Us What’s Possible” creative incubator. The story was also featured in The Guardian.

Read more glacier news at GlacierHub:

The Swiftness of Glaciers: Language in a Time of Climate Change

Melting Glaciers Create Uncertain Future for Xinjiang

The Curious Case of New Zealand’s Shrinking Glaciers

The Curious Case of New Zealand’s Shrinking Glaciers

The Point of No Return

New Zealand’s glaciers showed signs of an unusually severe summer in 2018. Every year, scientists from New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) fly over the Southern Alps of New Zealand to record the condition of the country’s glaciers. This year, they noticed that no snow remained from the previous winter.

Tasman Glacier, New Zealand (Source: Paul Stewart)
Tasman Glacier, New Zealand (Source: Paul Stewart).

New Zealand has 3,200 glaciers, and scientists have been observing these glaciers since the late 1970s. Out of 3,200 glaciers, 50 were selected by glaciologist Trevor Chinn to serve as a sample data set representing all of New Zealand’s alps. Of these 50 glaciers, 30 were unable to retain snow from the previous winter.

The “snow line” is the elevation at which the snow from the previous winter sits above exposed ice, but in 2018 the snow kept melting. In other words, 30 of the mountains were not tall enough to reach the potential “snow line.” Unfortunately, this means that these mountains lost snow which could have potentially become the ice necessary for nourishing these glaciers.

Over one-third of all the snow and ice in the Southern Alps melted in recent decades, with warmer temperatures making it difficult for the mountains to retain snow through the summer. In fact, the total volume of ice has decreased by 34 percent since the late 1970s. The Southern Alps of New Zealand have continuously receded at an uneven pace. Some years the glaciers have receded quicker than other years. However, research indicates that the rate at which glaciers are shrinking has accelerated over the past 15 years.

What Made This Summer so Severe?

The same climate scientists from NIWA and others from Victoria University of Wellington argue that the increase in temperature is being caused by a marine heat wave. This is the first time scientists have made a connection between marine heat waves and glacial retreat. A marine heat wave is characterized by extreme sea surface temperatures (SSTs) that last for several months. However, unlike the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which also has extreme SSTs, marine heat waves are not limited to the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. In fact, marine heat waves have occurred in different locations around the world. It turns out marine heat waves have been around for quite some time, but it is only recently that they have caught the attention of the scientific community.

Marine Heat Wave Map (Source: Nature Communication)
Marine heat wave map (Source: Nature Communication).

According to a recent study, one of the earliest significant marine heat waves on record took place in 2003 around the northwestern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The warm pool reached anywhere between three to five degrees Celsius above the 1982 to 2016 reference period. Since then, there have been a total of seven other significant marine heat waves based on the metrics of the study.

What is truly troubling about the frequency of these heat waves is that three out of the eight significant heat waves happened in 2016 alone. That’s not including the other smaller marine heat waves similar to the one which directly affected the glaciers in New Zealand. There seems to be an increasing trend in marine heat waves around the world.

According to another study, the warming and the frequency could be due to anthropogenic forcing. Eric Oliver of the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University claims that, according to his findings, heat waves in the region are made 53 percent more likely due to human-induced climate change.

The Dangers of Marine Heat Waves

The most significant marine heat wave to date was nicknamed “the blob.” This marine heatwave stretched all the way from Alaska to Panama and got its name from the way its massive heat signature registered on the map. Between 2013 and 2015 this massive heat wave cost the lives of millions of sea stars, over one hundred thousand seabirds, and thousands of sea lions. In June 2015, over a dozen whales died and washed ashore. Similarly, in a single month, 79 sea otters reportedly died. At one point the heat wave even caused a toxic bloom of algae so large that it shut down California’s crab industry.

The video above explains what caused large numbers of sea otters to die during the marine heat wave (Source: National Geographic).

Off the southeast coast of Australia, another heat wave was recorded shortly after “the blob.” According to another study, between 2015 and 2016, Australia had its longest and most intense heat wave ever recorded. It lasted between 251 days, with heat reaching up to 2.9 degrees Celsius higher than normal. This marine heat wave killed off over one-fifth of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef. The same marine heat wave resulted in the worst mangrove die-off in the world. Over 7,000 hectares of mangroves died during that marine heat wave.

Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef (Source: @robertscribbler/Twitter).

Marine heat waves also have a significant economic impact. A marine heat wave between 2010 and 2013 off the western coast of Australia destroyed 90 percent of the kelp forests in the Great Southern Reef, affecting major fisheries including rock lobsters and abalone fisheries. More recently, the 2016 marine heat wave in the region caused an outbreak of an oyster disease, closing local hatcheries all over the region.

How are Marine Heat Waves Formed?

The term marine heat wave was only coined fairly recently in 2011. Scientists are starting to study the causes of marine heat waves and the extent of their impact on the environment. Some scientists argue that certain marine heat waves are affected by El Niño. For example, “The blob” has been closely associated with the weak 2014-2015 El Niño event. According to studies conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the beginning of the marine heat wave may have started toward the end of 2013 and start of 2014. In 2014, high pressure over the Pacific Ocean led to weaker winds. The winds were unable to bring cooler air from the north which contributed to a slight rise in temperatures in the region. Then, around the middle of 2014, an El Niño event occurred and further intensified the heat wave allowing the warmer temperatures to expand all along the Pacific coast.

On the other hand, Oliver’s research argues that the convergence of heat is somehow linked to the anomalous southward flow of the East Australian Current (EAC) and enhanced kinetic energy which coincided with the 2015 to 2016 marine heat wave off the coast of Australia. The EAC brings warm water down the East coast of Australia into the Tasman Sea.

According to Oliver’s study, a temperature budget, in which “horizontal advection and sea-air heat flux” were also considered, indicated that southward advection was indeed the main cause of the anomalous temperatures. The study goes on the point out that the southward advection was consistent with a stronger southward extension of the EAC. Meanwhile, NIWA forecaster Ben Noll argues that one of the factors that researchers may wish to consider would be the atmospheric pressure. Higher atmospheric pressure in the region keeps the weather conditions calm above the water and fail to produce the winds necessary to churn up cold water from deep in the ocean. This therefore allows warm pools to build up over time.

Researchers and scientists are still trying to understand the causes behind marine heat waves around the world. However, it remains clear that the chances of marine heat waves occurring will continue to increase in the near future, affecting not just marine life but even glaciers.

 

Roundup: Collapsing Ice Shelves, Oil Spills, and New Zealand

The Implications of Collapsing Antarctic Ice Shelves

From Cryosphere Discuss: “Ice shelf break-up and disintegration events over the past several decades have led to speed-up, thinning, and retreat of upstream tributary glaciers and increases to rates of global sea-level rise. The southward progression of these episodes indicates a climatic cause, and in turn, suggests that the larger Larsen C and George VI ice shelves may undergo similar collapse in future. However, the extent to which removal of Larsen C and George VI ice shelves will affect upstream tributary 5 glaciers and add to global sea levels is unknown.”

Read more about the collapse of Larsen C and George VI ice shelves here.

George VI Ice Shelf from Alexander Island (Source: AntarcticGlaciers.org)
George VI Ice Shelf from Alexander Island (Source: AntarcticGlaciers.org).

Effects of future Oil Spills in the Arctic

From Science of the Total Environment Journal: “New economic developments in the Arctic, such as shipping and oil exploitation, bring along unprecedented risks of marine oil spills. Microorganisms have played a central role in degrading and reducing the impact of the spilled oil during past oil disasters. However, in the Arctic, and in particular in its pristine areas, the self-cleaning capacity and biodegradation potential of the natural microbial communities have yet to be uncovered.”

Learn more about marine oil spills in the Arctic here.

Biodegradation of oil spills in arctic specific environments (Image Source: Science of the Total Environment Journal)
Biodegradation of oil spills in arctic specific environments (Source: Science of the Total Environment Journal).

New Zealand’s Glaciers Are In Trouble

From Radio New Zealand: “Climate scientists and glaciologists from NIWA and Victoria University of Wellington have just completed their annual end of summer snowline flight over nearly 50 glaciers in the Southern Alps. They report that the summer’s marine heatwave has left the ice giants in ‘sad shape.’”

Find out more about how the New Zealand glaciers are in danger after a marine heatwave here.

New Zealand Southern Alps (Source: Radio New Zealand)
New Zealand Southern Alps (Source: Radio New Zealand).

From Sea to Summit: the Māori and the Crown

New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki, at sunset (Source: Andrea Schaffer/Creative Commons).

Typically, the stones that have made their way through faraway moraines down to the mouths of glacier-fed rivers never return to their high-altitude origins. But on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitingi between the British Crown and the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand, Māori and Crown representatives came together to usher two stones from the mouth of the Waitiki river to the base of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. A recent article in Te Kaharoa documents the lifework of an indigenous Māori activist, Anne Sissie Pate Titaha Te Maihāroa Dodds, and her efforts to build peaceful relations between Māori and non-indigenous communities.

The colony of New South Wales was founded by Britain in 1788, and while its territory technically included much of what is now New Zealand, Britain didn’t become involved politically on the islands until the 1820s, in response to reports about European lawlessness. Ultimately, the Treaty of Waitingi was signed in 1840, with the Crown and Māori chiefs coming to a contractual agreement over New Zealand’s relationship to settler colonialism. The treaty has been the source of longstanding dispute because of conflicting political agendas and issues of translation that continue to plague relations between sovereign states and indigenous communities worldwide.

In short, notions of rights over property and land emerge within individual cosmological systems, and when these systems are forced to confront one another, it is nearly impossible for each side to understand the other. The article’s author, Kelli Te Maihāroa, explained in an interview with GlacierHub that for the Māori, Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) is considered sacred and does not belong to human beings, although human beings derive from and return to her. This understanding is the complete inverse of that held by the British, for whom land could be possessed and parceled. Any treaty that offered permanent control over the land and its resources was incoherent in traditional Māori culture.

One of the lakes that feeds into the Waitaki (Source: TimN NZ/Creative Commons).

Though Te Maihāroa Dodds recognizes these disputes, she has chosen to dedicate her life to community-building across boundaries, bringing indigenous and non-indigenous parties together in pursuit of a more equitable future. The article is a life-history of Te Maihāroa Dodds that elucidates the many corners of New Zealand life, indigenous and not, that she has touched. A steadfast promoter of Māori tino rakatirataka (self-determination), she has advocated for environmental awareness in keeping with Māori traditional practices.

On December 31, 1989, Te Maihāroa Dodds and others organized an Ocean to Alps celebration (New Zealand’s mountains are known as the ‘Southern Alps’) to mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitingi. To commemorate the event, two stones were chosen from the mouth of the Waitiki river by a Māori tribal chief. According to the author, the chief was a deeply spiritual man, and was probably drawn to the Mauri (life force) of the stones. “As we would say, it was speaking or calling to him,” she stated. The two stones were then transported via boat by a group of Māori and Crown representatives up the river, and ultimately placed at two locations: the Tasman Glacier’s moraine and its visitor center (to commemorate the event).

The Waitaki River as it rolls out to sea (Source: grumpylumixuser/Creative Commons).

For Te Maihāroa Dodds, it runs in the family. She is a direct descendant of Te Maihāroa, a Māori priest who in the late 19th century unified Māori living on New Zealand’s South Island against the influx of Western encroachment. Like her great-grandfather, she has a commitment to the land as it was traditionally understood— not belonging to human beings, but acting as the bearer of mankind.

In an interview with GlacierHub, Te Maihāroa emphasized that solidarity lay at the heart of the event— honoring different histories and celebrating a shared vision for the future. Since the Crown and Māori represent the two partners of the Treaty of Waitangi, both parties saw the event as a celebration of the two peoples. Though not all iwi (Māori tribes) agree about the nature of the treaty, the commemoration was widely supported by both Māori and non-Māori.

According to the author, the journey from sea to summit— from Waitiki river to Aoraki glacier— marked a return of a living object to its source. Similarly, the participants were marking a return to the spirit, if not intent, of the treaty: the funds came from the New Zealand government, while the ceremonial objects were provided by Māori chiefs. “The transportation of the kohatu (stone) from the mouth of the Waitaki River to the Tasman Glacier was about honoring the source from where the kohatu came from and the journey down the river. The return of objects to their natural place of origin is often undertaken by the Māori,” Te Maihāroa stated.

The Tasman Glacier lake (Source: ginny russell/Creative Commons).

The river and the glacier are both sacred ancestors of the Māori, and non-indigenous participants were involved in order to celebrate past agreements and forgive transgressions in the name of mutual progress. “The celebration was a return to the spirit of partnership in which the treaty was signed. Unfortunately, it was broken after only a few years by the Crown. This in essence was another extension of goodwill, generosity of spirit and partnership, an opportunity to reset the relationship again after 150 years. The Waitaha people welcomed first North Island tribes and then colonial settlers,” Te Maihāroa said. “It is encompassed in our extension of ‘manaakitanga‘— caring, hospitality, hosting, looking after visitors,” she added. Through marriages, the visitors have become a part of Māori whakapapa (geneology), and they share a future— one that activists like Te Maihāroa Dodds help to facilitate for the well-being of all New Zealanders.

Roundup: Hazard Films, Water Scarcity, and Peace Building

Roundup: Films, Water and Peace

 

Films Raise Awareness in Volcanic Regions

From Science Direct: “The medium of film is well established for education and communication about hazardous phenomena as it provides engaging ways to directly view hazards and their impacts… Using volcanic eruptions as a focus, an evidence-based methodology was devised to create, use, and track the outcomes of digital film tools designed to raise hazard and risk awareness, and develop preparedness efforts. Experiences from two contrasting eruptions were documented, with the secondary purpose of fostering social and cultural memories of eruptions, developed in response to demand from at-risk communities during field-based research. The films were created as a partnership with local volcano monitoring scientists and at-risk populations who, consequently, became the leading focus of the films, thus offering a substantial contrast to other types of hazard communication.”

Read more about it here.

A map of St. Vincent showing the main road, water courses and volcanic hazard zones (source: Hicks et al.).

 

An Overview of Water Issues in Mountain Asia

From Cambridge Core: “Asia, a region grappling with the impacts of climate change, increasing natural disasters, and transboundary water issues, faces major challenges to water security. Water resources there are closely tied to the dramatic Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain range, where over 46,000 glaciers hold some of the largest repositories of fresh water on earth. Often described as the water tower of Asia, the HKH harbors the snow and ice that form the headwaters of the continent’s major rivers. Downstream, this network of river systems sustains more than 1.3 billion people who depend on these freshwater sources for their consumption and agricultural production, and increasingly as a source of hydropower.”

Learn more about the HKH area here.

View from Cholpon-Ata across the lake towards the Tian-Shan Mountains in Asia (source: Thomas Depenbusch/Flickr).

 

The Pathway of Peaceful Living

From Te Kaharoa: “This paper traces the peacebuilding efforts of Anne Te Maihāora Dodds (Waitaha) in her North Otago community over the last twenty-five years. The purpose of this paper is to record these unique localized efforts, as a historical record of grass-roots initiatives aimed at creating a greater awareness of indigenous and environmental issues… The paper discussed several rituals and pilgrimages. It describes the retracing of ancestral footsteps of Te Heke Ōmaramataka (2012), the peace walk at Maungatī (2012) and the Ocean to Alps Celebration (1990). This paper also discusses the genesis behind cultural events such.”

Explore more about the Maori nation here.

Tasman Glacier at Mount Cook NP, New Zealand (source: Paco/Flickr).

 

A Living Piece of History: An Outdoor Ice Rink in New Zealand

The remains of an outdoor ice rink near Mount Harper/Mahaanui in New Zealand offer insight into the establishment, use and decline of what may have been the largest outdoor ice rink in the Southern hemisphere. The privately built rink on South Island was a popular social amenity from the 1930s to the 1950s, playing an important role in the development of ice hockey and skating in the country, as detailed in a heritage assessment carried out by Katharine Watson for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC). A combination of interviews, secondary sources and an archaeological survey were used to inform the history of the rink present in the assessment.

Mt. Harper ice rink lies in the lee of the mountain (the side that is sheltered from the prevailing wind) that gives it its name, at the foot of the glacier-clad Southern Alps of New Zealand. It was built in the early 1930s by Wyndham Barker, the son of a minor member of the English gentry who lived in Canterbury and learned to ice skate while studying in Europe, as explained in the assessment.

The bunds that surrounded the ice rinks still remain to the true left of the Rangitata River (Source: Ian Hill / Department of Conservation)
The bunds that surrounded the ice rinks still remain to the true left of the Rangitata River (Source: Ian Hill/Department of Conservation)

The rinks no longer contain any ice and some now contain vegetation, but the bunds (earth mounds) surrounding the ice rinks can still be seen. Many of the original buildings, such as the ticket office, toilet block, skate shed, a hut built to house the Barker’s cow, Sissy, and the Barker’s house are still standing.

The rink was first built in the summer of 1931-1932 and was fed by water from a nearby stream. However, its original location was too exposed to the nor’westers (strong north-westerly winds that are characteristic of Canterbury in New Zealand), which rippled the ice. Barker subsequently moved the rink closer to Mt. Harper, building the rink by allowing controlled layers of ice to build up over many nights. The rink’s first major public season took place in the winter of 1934.

The shed that housed the hydropower scheme (Source: Katharine Watson/Christchurch Uncovered).
The shed that housed the hydropower scheme (Source: Katharine Watson/Christchurch Uncovered).

A hydropower scheme was also installed in 1938 to power lights for skating at night, while allowing water to be sluiced onto the ice if necessary. “The whole landscape is really legible today, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place,” Watson explained to GlacierHub. 

“These kinds of sites are very important records of the myriad ways in which human societies have used, interacted with, and taken advantage of seasonal ice over time,” added Rebecca Woods, a professor of the history of technology at the University of Toronto. “An archeological site like Barker’s rink would be a candidate for a cool virtual reality tour along the lines of a New York Times 360° video.”

The potential of the site to tell the story of outdoor ice skating and ice hockey in New Zealand has been identified by the DOC. “The designation of the site as an Actively Conserved Historic Place recognizes this and entails a commitment to maintain the key buildings and structures in the expectation that despite being fairly isolated, the difficulty of access may change some time in the future,” shared Lizzy Sutcliffe, a representative from the DOC.

The rink was subdivided over its first few years of use, with up to seven rinks existing in the 1940s. One reason for doing this was that the ice was not freezing well. It also allowed one of the rinks to be dedicated to ice hockey, which Barker was passionate about. In fact, he was an important figure in the history of ice hockey in New Zealand, establishing the Erewhorn Cup, an ice hockey tournament that persists to this day.

Crossing a swing bridge over the Rangitata River. Kent, Thelma Rene. Ref: 1/2-009844-F. Alexander Turnbull Library. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Crossing a swing bridge over the Rangitata River. Kent, Thelma Rene. Ref: 1/2-009844-F. Alexander Turnbull Library. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

The main focus of the rink was definitely ice hockey, along with recreational skating,” Watson explained to GlacierHub. “Competitive ice hockey matches were held at the rink.” The remote location of the rink also meant that it had to be accessed using a punt until a swing bridge was built in later years.

At the time, ice rinks in South Canterbury were all located in the high country, close to the Southern Alps, which meant that most of them were associated with high country pastoral stations farmed by people perceived of as the elite. This rink was probably important in introducing people outside the pastoral stations to ice skating, as it was more accessible to the people of Geraldine, the nearest town. The rink’s development and success were part of a larger movement in New Zealand at the time, where there was increasing leisure time and people were more frequently exploring the outdoors and taking up winter sports, according to Watson.

Gender could also have had an effect on the use of the rink, according to Woods. She explained to GlacierHub that gender has influenced many realms of human interaction with ice, likely extending to the use of ice rinks. “The competitive [ice hockey] matches were all played by men,” added Watson.

Public use of the rink ceased in the mid-1950s for a few reasons, one of which could have been climate change. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that warmer winters were one of the reasons the rink was abandoned,” Watson said. “The later owners of the rink did purchase a refrigeration unit at one point. This seems to suggest that things were getting warmer.” Another reason for the closing of the rink might have been World War II and the changes it brought about including the increased cost of fuel, which made it harder to get to the rink.

A map showing the remains of the ice rink and surrounding buildings (Source: Katharine Watson/Department of Conservation).
A map showing the remains of the ice rink and surrounding buildings (Source: Katharine Watson/Department of Conservation).

The remains of the rink offer some insight into one aspect of past human interactions with ice in New Zealand. Its completeness also makes it an interesting place to visit, if one is willing to make the journey to this remote region. Amidst the remains, it would be easy to imagine the laughter and enjoyment of people skating there, just as they would have done this winter if the rink was still operational.

“Given how dramatically the planet’s temperature is rising, it’s more critical than ever to document these instances [in human history] and demonstrate them to the public,” concluded Woods.

Read more about the rink and view additional photos here.