The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) advances scientific research on the frozen areas of the Earth, known as the crysophere, and the climate that influences them. Founded in 1976, the center manages a data archive and educates the public about the cryosphere, including the world’s glaciers. Scientists of the NSIDC specialize in collecting data through remote sensing, which is the process of using satellites to observe information. The center was originally formed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to hold archives from NOAA’s programs. Today, the NSIDC is housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where it continues to be the leader of cryospheric data management.
The photographs held by the NSIDC date back to the mid-1800s and include images of glaciers in Europe, South America, the Himalayas, Antarctica and elsewhere. As of 2010, the searchable, online collection has over 15,000 photos of glaciers, which serve as important historical records for researchers and scientists studying the impacts of climate change.
Take a look at GlacierHub’s compilation of photographs from the database. To view more historic images, visit the NSIDC’s Glacier Photograph Collection.
“In 2014, glaciers continued to shrink. Based on an analysis of more than three dozen reference glaciers with long-term monitoring, the 2014 BAMS State of the Climate reports that in 2014, glaciers experienced an average loss of 853 millimeters of water equivalent, meaning the equivalent depth of water (spread out over the entire glacier area) that would be produced from the amount of melted snow or ice. This loss was not quite as severe the loss from 2013 (887 millimeters), but it still counted among the larger losses recorded since 1980.”
Read more about the state of mountain glaciers in 2014 here. To check out the full text of NOAA’s 2014 State of the Climate, click here.
Family documents retreating glaciers for 100 years
“The glaciers of Western Canada have fascinated an American family for generations. The Vaux family began to document the retreat of the enormous masses of ice in the Canadian Rockies, which had already begun in the late 1800s. Henry Vaux Jr., who carried on the glacier-watching mission of his ancestors more than 100 years later, recreating many of the photographs himself, spoke to the Homestretch this week. His photography will be featured at a summer-long photo exhibit that kicked off this week at Banff’s Whyte Museum.”
To see the Vaux photo collection and to learn more, click here.
Nature preserve planned at site where glaciers stopped
“A land preservation group plans to open a nature preserve at a central Indiana site where glaciers stopped some 12,000 years ago. The Central Indiana Land Trust says its latest purchase will allow for the creation of the 550-acre Glacier’s End Nature Preserve near the Johnson County town of Nineveh. The group says the forest site is a mix of land flattened by glaciers and that similar to the rolling hills of nearby Brown County. The property about 25 miles south of Indianapolis includes steep bluffs and is home to some rare bird species.”
The year 2013 hasn’t been a good one for climate change (as you might’ve guessed) and mountain glaciers have been singled out, according to a new report released by the National Climatic Data Center.
The largest climate data archive in the world sits in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains and contains 14 petabytes of information, enough to stream 23 million movies. Asheville, N.C. is home to the NCDC, a division within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – that provides climatological services and data worldwide. For the last 24 years, NCDC scientists have been producing an annual report on the state of the world’s climate. These reports provide updates on global and regional climate and notable weather from the preceding year. Published by the American Meteorological Society in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), this report is a large international collaboration. The most recent report, covering the year 2013, involved over 400 scientists from 57 countries.
Among the 2013 report’s distinguished highlights, along with carbon dioxide levels topping 400 parts per million, and the record-breaking super-typhoon Haiyan, is the news about mountain glaciers. The supplementary report begins by explain the importance of these glaciers:
“Around the globe, some 370 million people live in basins where rivers derive at least 10 percent of their seasonal discharge from glacier melt. Glacier melt provides drinking water for human populations, and irrigation water for crops. Dams on glacier-fed rivers are key sources of hydroelectric power in some parts of the world. The retreat of the majority of mountain glaciers worldwide is one of the clearest signs that climate is warming over the long term; some glaciers have already disappeared.”
The report indicates that mountain glaciers lost more ice from melt than they gained from seasonal snow-fall for the 23rd year in a row. This pattern is expected to continue. Since 1980, glaciers have lost the equivalent of 50 feet (more than 15 meters) of water.
Five regions with long histories of data are used in the report as a barometer for the health of mountain glacier: Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Nepal, and the Northern Cascades of Washington State. The news – a pattern dominated by loss – is grim. Of the 96 glaciers evaluated in the Austrian Alps, 93 are retreating, two are stable, and just one is advancing. Norway is much the same: 26 of the 33 are retreating, another four are stable, and only three are advancing. Things are worse in North America (the 14 glaciers of the Northern Cascades in Washington State and Alaska are all significantly retreating) and in New Zealand, where all 50 are anticipated to have retreated by the end of the 2013 melt season. Only in Nepal, where the 3 glaciers monitored are near equilibrium, this near-balance reflects an unusually good year. In 2013, those glaciers received the largest amount of snow accumulation in the last seven years.
The plight of diminishing mountain glaciers has serious implications for the health, food, energy resources and livelihoods of the 370 million people who live close to them. There are also serious effects in adjacent lowlands. Just as steady upward trend of the Keeling Curve of carbon dioxide concentrations is closely watched, so should be its apparent reflection: the glacier mass balance curve, shown each year in the State of the Climate report for the world to see.
This year’s’ report and all previous reports are available for free download online.