Sitting on the Edge of a Troll’s Tongue

Dating back to roughly 800 A.D., the Vikings sailed around Scandinavia, spreading folklore about wicked creatures and mountain trolls. In the accounts, trolls were seen as unfriendly beings and dangerous to humans. Additional tales declared that trolls turned to stone when caught out in the sunlight. These stories served as a warning to all people that entered the treacherous mountains.

Over time, Norse mythology has evolved, and people’s opinions have changed. Trolls are now seen as an attraction. In Norway, gift shops are scattered with figurine trolls, and some tourist destinations feature large, troll sculptures. 

Norwegians remain proud of their folk traditions. And now, I was hiking a trail that was named after these legendary, mythological creatures. 

Troll’s Tongue, or Trolltunga in Norwegian, is a famous rock formation that is located next to Folgefonna National Park in western Norway. The unique, geological landform is named because it resembles a troll’s tongue. 

View of Lake Ringedalsvatnet (Source: Maria Dombrov)

The hike to the rock formation takes anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete and is only recommended for those with high physical endurance. Despite the trial’s difficulty level, hundreds of hikers climb this trail daily during the summer season. My dad, whose name is Serge, and I were among the crowd. 

We arrived at the car park at 8 in the morning. It was misty and cool, and an intense fog covered the mountains all around us. We put on our backpacks filled with lots of water, freshly made sandwiches, and ample snacks. I also lugged along my camera, which added a few pounds to my backpack. Later on, though, I knew it’d be worth carrying to get the highly acclaimed photo – sitting at the edge of Trolltunga. 

Full of energy and unaware of the exact journey ahead, we began walking. About a mile into the hike, we came across a giant wall of stairs made out of rocks. The stairs go up about a half a mile. It was extremely intimidating to look at and even more demanding to climb. We pushed on, took multiple breaks, and finally made it to the top of the stairs about an hour later. During this section of the trail, we came across several signs that read “Non-potable water. Do not drink.” 

The green troll has a stern warning for hikers. He says, ” Don’t pollute the nature!!” (Source: Maria Dombrov)

For the next few hours, my dad and I hiked up and down some steep hills. The mountain landscape was green and rocky. As we walked, on our right-hand side, a deep valley appeared. The blue, shimmering waters of Lake Ringedalsvatnet filled the valley floor.

Despite warnings from a sign featuring a troll, we came across some not so beautiful views as well. Along the hike, I saw cigarette butts, cans of Red Bull, plastic water bottle caps, and plastic sandwich bags. Seeing all of the litter along the way undermined the beauty of the mountain landscape. 

In the last hour of our hike, the scenery changed slightly. The trail underneath our feet transitioned from dirt and mud to only rock. At this point, we could sense that we were getting close to the rock formation due to an increase in the number of people.

Stepping onto Troll’s Tongue

After one final push over a rocky hill, we reached our destination. The rock formation wasn’t visible at first. So we walked over near the crowd of people and looked down. And there it was—the enormous, 10,000-year-old cliff that we had traveled so far to see. 

After stretching my legs and eating a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I walked over to the cliff and climbed down a few steel steps that were embedded into the rock. I joined the line of other hikers that were waiting for their moment of fame on the edge of the rock. After about 20 minutes of waiting for my picture, I walked out onto the rock, smiling and excited. I sat down near the edge and scooted up so that my feet could dangle off the cliff. Trolltunga hangs over 2,200 feet above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. 

It was a truly geeky moment when I thought to myself how cool it was to be sitting on top of a solid piece of bedrock that was formed during the glacial recession at the end of the last Ice Age.  

GlacierHub writer, Maria Dombrov, sitting at the edge of Trolltunga

I breathed in and looked at the extraordinary viewpoint from Troll’s Tongue. I saw the lake below me and the mountains above me. Even, Folgefonna Glacier began to peak out in the cloudy distance. Folgefonna is Norway’s third-largest glacier. 

I realized quickly that it was time to give someone else a turn and head back, first to the trail and eventually to our car. My dad and I took it slow and steady on our hike back. We were pretty tired at this point but carefully navigated through the trail. When we reached the halfway point, a friendly, first-aid guide suggested that we eat some snacks, be careful of our footing, and fill up our water containers at a nearby stream. 

After about ten-and-a-half grueling hours of hiking, we finally reached the car park. Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy to see a car. 

Reflecting on this journey, I have a piece of advice to all adventurers, tourists, and hikers. Please, don’t leave your trash behind. The mountain doesn’t need it, and future hikers after you shouldn’t have to deal with it. 

This post is the third in a series of posts about firsthand experiences visiting Norwegian glaciers, famous fjords, and well-known hiking destinations. Check back to GlacierHub in upcoming weeks to read more about my travels in Norway. 

Read More on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: Aerial Images of Norway

Finger Lakes Residents Connect With the Region’s GlacialPast

Video of the Week: Grizzlies in Glacier National Park

Photo Friday: Aerial Images of Norway

This week’s Photo Friday features scenic, aerial images from Geirangerfjord, Norway. Geirangerfjord is one of Norway’s most famous fjords and holds a spot on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List. Over 800,000 tourists flock to Geirangerfjord annually to take in the beautiful landscape.

The last photo highlights “The Man”, an unstable mountainside located in the region. If this mountainside were to fall into the fjord, it could create a tidal surge of up to 80 meters high. Fortunately, Norwegian researchers at The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate are constantly monitoring the mountainside.

Fjords are long, narrow inlets of the sea, situated between mountainous coastline on either side. Fjord formation occurs when significant glacial retreat reaches bedrock level. The glacial retreat then leads to land erosion and the creation of a U-shaped valley, which fills with seawater, resulting in unique geological features such as Geirangerfjord.

Aerial shot of Geirangerfjord (Source: Maria Dombrov)
Aerial shot near Geirangerfjord (Source: Maria Dombrov)
Aerial shot near Geirangerfjord (Source: Maria Dombrov)
Geirangerfjord, Norway (Source: Maria Dombrov)
“The Man”, or Mannen in Norwegian (Source: Maria Dombrov)

This post is the second in a series of posts about firsthand experiences visiting Norwegian glaciers, famous fjords, and well-known hiking destinations. Check back to GlacierHub in upcoming weeks to read more about my travels in Norway. 

Additional Reading On GlacierHub:

Finger Lakes Residents Connect With the Region’s Glacial Past

Video of the Week: Grizzlies in Glacier National Park

Swing, Kick, Swing: Ice Climbing on a Norwegian Glacier

To Travel or Not to Travel

The chilly wind created by the speed of the boat whipped through the coat, sweater, and longsleeve shirt I wore, interrupting my thoughts on the impact my trip had on my carbon footprint. Only two other tourists stayed on the upper deck as the boat wound its way through a fjord in western Norway, near Bergen. The sun caught the top of every small wave, creating an expanse of shimmering water between evergreen-coated mountains. We were heading toward Mostraumen Strait on a popular tourist cruise in the Hordaland region.

From the tourist cruise to Mostraumen Strait.

The fjord was a deep and narrow body of water. Norway’s fjords formed during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. Glaciers carved U-shaped valleys in coastal areas that were later filled with water as sea levels rose. The same process created fjords around the world in places such as Alaska, New Zealand, and Patagonia. 

Norway has one of the longest coastlines in the world at 58,133 kilometers, which has influenced Norwegian culture. Many of Bergen’s biggest tourist attractions are defined by their relationship with the sea. Some of the highlights of my time in Bergen were visiting the Norway Fisheries Museum, where I learned about the history of Norway’s hefty cod fishing industry, and hiking up to spectacular views over the fjords. Many tourists know of Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, as the gateway to the fjords and visit it specifically to see them, myself included.  

View from a hiking trail.

This summer, I was one of the millions of visitors Norway receives each year when I spent six days exploring Bergen and its surrounding fjords. A thought I was never able to fully escape during the course of my vacation touring Norway’s gorgeous, glacially-shaped landscape was whether the choices that led to me standing on the upper level of a ferry boat admiring the scenery were contributing to the destruction of modern-day glaciers that act on current landscapes.

On the way to Mostraumen Strait.

Retracing the steps that brought me to that boat reveals a long trail of emissions; one transatlantic flight into Paris, another quick flight into Bergen, a train into the city from the airport, and the boat ride itself are among the resource-consuming means of transport I used to reach the fjords.

The downside to travel is obvious: flights are among the most carbon-intensive activities an individual can possibly undertake. A 2016 study showed that about 3 square meters of Arctic sea ice area are lost for every metric ton of CO2 emissions. A flight from New York to Los Angeles, for example, results in the loss of 32 square feet of sea ice. Another study shows that the average American’s emissions will cause the deaths of two people in the future. 

But there are benefits to travel. Visiting new places has been shown to increase creativity and foster a stronger sense of self, while reducing stress and feelings of depression. Spending time abroad pushes people to leave their comfort zones and fosters a greater appreciation for the world outside of the familiar.

View over Byfjorden, Bergen.

One path away from the conundrum created by the conflicting pros and cons of travel is the purchase of carbon offsets. Carbon offsets aim to compensate for the emissions released over the course of, for instance, air travel by reducing an equivalent or greater amount of emissions elsewhere. Offsets can take the form of forestry projects or energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. To successfully counter emissions, offsets need to meet three criteria. They must have additionality—they need to be an action that would not have taken place if the money had not been received from the offset. They cannot have leakage—they must result in a net reduction of emissions. Lastly, they cannot be undone in the future—they must be permanent.

Some airlines like Qantas, KLM, and Austrian Airlines have programs in place to allow passengers to pay to offset their emissions. Third-parties like Gold Standard also exist to offset past emissions or to offset emissions created when flying with companies without such programs. Such programs place the culpability and responsibility to act on the passenger rather than the company that is producing the emissions and allows airlines to avoid implementing concrete emission-reduction measures.

The inconsistency of individual action led to the development of another approach: the UN Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is designed to hold airlines accountable by requiring that they offset emissions from international flights that emit over 2020 levels of emissions. CORISA, which comes into effect in 2021, contains many loopholes, though, and is voluntary for its first six years, leading some experts to doubt its efficacy.

A small boat on one of the fjords around Bergen.

Carbon offsets seem like an imperfect way to temporarily address the emissions created by air travel. For the kind of travel that brings us to the places that make life worth living like going on a visit to family and friends or for essential business travel, investing in offsets is better than doing nothing. When offsets become a justification for extra journeys that would not have been undertaken without a belief in the remedying powers of offsets, their benefits are outweighed by the harm inflicted by greater quantities of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and by the uncertainty of their efficacy.

Travelling, whether it is long or short distance, for business or pleasure, whether it is by plane, train or automobile, is part of the way we live. It fosters connections between people both by forging new links and allowing us to maintain ties to the past. If we were to give up travel in an increasingly globalized world, we would be giving up big and small life experiences that cannot be had by staying in one place. 

If the planes, trains, and boats I took to reach the fjords were powered by biofuels or renewable energy there would be far fewer emissions from my travels: the development of cleaner transportation would allow us to continue exploring new places without the ecological impact of today’s carbon intensive travel. Norway has become a leader in testing electric planes and predicts that by 2025 electric passenger flights could become a reality. Two-seater, all-electric planes are currently being used to train pilots by a Norweigian aviation firm. Until a large-scale shift becomes possible, Norway is imposing biofuel requirements on airlines operating within its borders to cut down on emissions. These initiatives demonstrate that there are options out there that may allow us to continue reaping the benefits of travel while minimizing the harm it inflicts on the people and places we are drawn to visit.

All images were taken by Elza Bouhassira. You can find her on Instagram here.

Roundup: Uranium Mining in Nepal, Glacier-Fed Clouds, and a Survey of Xinjiang Land Use

Nepal’s Government Considers Uranium Mining Legislation

From My República: “A hasty push for endorsement of the ‘nuclear bill’ in the parliament is being made amidst rumors of the discovery of uranium mines near trans-Himalayan terrain of Lo Mangthang of Mustang district. In fact, [the] Office of Investment Board’s website claims that ‘a large deposit of uranium has been discovered in Upper Mustang region of Nepal … spread over an area 10 km long and 3 km wide and could be of highest grade. These findings have also been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.’ The bill, tabled by Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology unabashedly grants permission to uranium mining, enrichment, and all steps of nuclear fuel cycle; import and export of uranium, plutonium, and its isotopes; and use [of] Nepal as transit for storage of the nuclear and radio-active substances.”

Tangbe is a typical Mustang village with narrow alleys, whitewashed walls, chortens, and prayer flags. It is located on a promontory with a good view over the main valley. The ruins of an ancient fortress have become a silent witness of history, when Tangbe was on a major trade route, especially for salt, between Tibet and India. (Source: Jean-Marie Hullot/Flickr)

Retreating Glaciers Create … Clouds

From Nature: “Aeolian dusts serve as ice nucleating particles in mixed-phase clouds, and thereby alter the cloud properties and lifetime. Glacial outwash plains are thought to be a major dust source in cold, high latitudes. Due to the recent rapid and widespread retreat of glaciers, high-latitude dust emissions are projected to increase, especially in the Arctic region, which is highly sensitive to climate change. However, the potential contribution of high-latitude dusts to ice nucleation in Arctic low-level clouds is not well acknowledged. Here we show that glacial outwash sediments in Svalbard (a proxy for glacially sourced dusts) have a remarkably high ice nucleating ability under conditions relevant for mixed-phase cloud formation, as compared with typical mineral dusts.”

A view of heavy cloud cover about glaciers in Svalbard, Norway (Source: Omer Bozkurt/Flickr)

What Land Use Changes in Xinjiang, China Mean for Nearby Glaciers

From Sustainability: “[W]e analyzed the temporal-spatial variations of the characteristics of land use change in central Asia over the past two decades. This was conducted using four indicators (change rate, equilibrium extent, dynamic index, and transfer direction) and a multi-scale correlation analysis method, which explained the impact of recent environmental transformations on land use changes. The results indicated that the integrated dynamic degree of land use increased by 2.2% from 1995 to 2015. […] There were significant increases in cropland and water bodies from 1995 to 2005, while the amount of artificial land significantly increased from 2005 to 2015. The increased areas of cropland in Xinjiang were mainly converted from grassland and unused land from 1995 to 2015, while the artificial land increase was mainly a result of the conversion from cropland, grassland, and unused land. The area of cropland rapidly expanded in south Xinjiang, which has led to centroid position to move cropland in Xinjiang in a southwest direction. Economic development and the rapid growth of population size are the main factors responsible for the cropland increases in Xinjiang. Runoff variations have a key impact on cropland changes at the river basin scale, as seen in three typical river basins.”

A glacier feeds a river feeding into Ala-Kul Lake deep inside the mighty Tian Shan, a range of mountains separating the deserts of Xinjiang in western China from the lands of Central Asia. (Source: Journeys on Quest/Flickr)

Read More on GlacierHub:

Drying Peatlands in the Bolivian Andes Threaten Indigenous Pastoral Communities

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

Advances in Developing Peru’s National Policy for Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems

Photo Friday: Norway’s Picturesque Sognefjord

Nicknamed the King of the Fjords, Sognefjord is the longest and deepest fjord in Norway, spanning 127 miles in length and reaching a depth of 4,265 feet below sea level. Steep cliffs around the fjord reach elevations of over 5,570 feet.

Fjords are long, narrow inlets of the sea, situated between mountainous coastline on either side. Fjord formation occurs when significant glacial retreat reaches bedrock level. The glacial retreat then leads to land erosion and the creation of a U-shaped valley, which fills with seawater, resulting in unique geological features such as Sognefjord.

This week’s Photo Friday captures Sognefjord’s picturesque views, beauty, and expansiveness.

Sognefjord, Norway (Source: Simon X, Flickr)
Sognefjord, Norway (Source: Kari Siren, Flickr)
Sognefjord, Norway (Source: bjarne.stokke, Flickr)
Sognefjord, Norway (Source: Thorbjørn Øvrebø, Flickr)
Sognefjord, Norway (Source: Sabin Merino Basterretxea, Flickr)

Read more on GlacierHub:

Not All Iceberg-Generated Tsunamis Are Alike. Here’s How They Differ

Trump’s Interior Pick Wants to Heighten California Dam

Great Biodiversity of Puyuhuapi Fjord

Roundup: 1,400 Year-old Toy Arrow, NASA’s Ice Satellite, and Svalbard Glaciers

Discovery of a 1,400 Year-old Toy Arrow in Norway

From Secrets of the Ice: The recovery of a small blunt arrow, radiocarbon-dated to Late Antique Little Ice Age, is a testimony to the importance of hunting during this period. Due to its small size, it is very likely to be a toy arrow. From a young age, children had to practice and master the art of bow-and-arrow. It was essential for survival, especially during harsh climatic conditions. The toy arrow was found in the glaciated mountain pass at Lendbreen in Breheimen National Park, southern Norway. The unlucky child probably lost it in the snow and thought it was gone forever. Not so, the ice preserved it for 1,400 years.

Read about this find and more glacier archaeology here.

The blunt toy arrow is just 26.5 cm long and was dated to 600 AD (Source: Secrets of the Ice/Twitter).

 

Counting on NASA’s ICESat-2

From NASA: NASA’s most advanced laser instrument of its kind launched into space earlier this fall. According to the agency, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, provides critical observations of how ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice are changing, leading to insights into how those changes impact people where they live.

Read more about the ICESat-2 here.

Final checks are made prior to loading ICESat-2 (Source: USAF 30th Space Wing/Timothy Trenkle).

 

Glaciers on Svalbard Survived the Holocene Thermal Optimum

From Quaternary Science Reviews: “About 60% of Svalbard is covered by glaciers today, but many of these glaciers were much reduced in size or gone in the Early Holocene… Relative sea level has been rising during the last few millennia in the north and western parts of Spitsbergen, while land still emerges in the remaining part of Svalbard. Here we show that this sea level rise in the northwest is caused by the regrowth of glaciers in the Mid- to Late Holocene that slowed down, and even reversed, the post-glacial isostatic uplift and caused the crust to subside over large areas of Spitsbergen.”

Read more about the Svalbard glaciers here.

Burgerbukta Glacier, Svalbard (Source: Gary Bembridge/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Deadly Glacier Calving & Groundbreaking Assessments

Calving Glacier Kills Tourist in Norway

From The Local Norway: “An Austrian man has been killed in Norway after a huge block of ice calved off the Nigardsbreen glacier, causing a shower of water and ice which threw him into the fast-flowing meltwater. The man […] had ignored the warning signs and crossed over a safety cordon to get closer to the glacier.”

Read more about the deadly incident here.

According to the story, the man had ignored warning signs and crossed a safety barrier to get closer to Nigardsbreen Glacier (Source: The Local Norway/Twitter).

 

Identifying the Highest Plants on Earth

From Alpine Botany: “Three specimens from the 1952 Everest expedition are reviewed and analyzed, bringing the number of species sharing the title of ‘highest known vascular plant’ from two to five… This taxonomic investigation contributes to our knowledge of the biogeography of Himalayan flora and opens the way for future field-based investigations of mechanisms limiting plant growth on the roof of the world.”

Check out more about this important discovery here.

Mt. Everest (Source: Wangpin Thondup/Flickr).

Shrinking Glaciers and Growing Lakes in Peruvian Andes

From Global and Planetary Change: “In the tropical Andes, current rates of glacier loss are investigated to some point but associated future extent of both vanishing glacier and forming lake areas and volumes are poorly explored… Our current baseline and future projections suggest that a decrease in glacier shrinkage is also followed by a slowdown in lake formation and particularly volume growth which might have already developed or occur in the near-future.”

See for yourself what this assessment determined here.

Image of Pastoruri Glacier, a vulnerable glacier in the Peruvian Andes (Source: Guillaume Weill/Flickr).

Tadpole Shrimp, Arctic Charr, and Glacial Retreat in Svalbard

Popular images of the Arctic often feature a polar bear with its white fur matching the surrounding sea ice or a narwhal with its tusk piercing the ocean waves. You are less likely to consider the Arctic tadpole shrimp, a tiny crustacean that is vitally important to many food webs in harsh Arctic environments. A recent study in the journal Boreal Environment Research examined the tadpole shrimp and its contribution to the diet of the small salmon-related Arctic charr in a glacial-fed river and lake in Svalbard, Norway.

Arctic tadpole shrimp are found in lakes across the Arctic, from Siberia to Iceland. The size of the shrimp population in a lake reflects the density of the charr population. In deeper lakes, where Arctic charr are prevalent, the shrimp are rare or not found at all, but in shallow lakes with few or no charr, the shrimp are widespread. In lakes where the two species coexist, the shrimp are a key source of food for the charr.

Photo of the Arctic tadpole shirmp
The Arctic tadpole shrimp (Source: Reidar Borgstrøm).

Though the connection between charr and tadpole shrimp populations has been established, no one had ever studied the charr’s diet in Arctic streams, many of which flow into lakes inhabited by both the tadpole shrimp and charr. This study set out to fill this gap by examining the summertime diet of riverine charr on Spitsbergen, the largest of the islands of the Svalbard archipelago.

The study focused on the streams that feed the shallow lake Straumsjøen on Spitsbergen and its outlet river. The streams that empty into the lake from the south and west discharge clear water, while water flowing from the northern stream fed by the glacier Geabreen is cold and cloudy because of glacial meltwater and silt.

Map of Straumsjøen
Svalbard with the location of Straumsjøen and its outlet river (Source: Borgstrøm et al.).

To analyze the diets of the charr, the authors captured fish from the the lake’s outlet stream by utilizing electrofishing, a fish surveying method that stuns a fish when it swims near an electrode-generated electric field. The researchers then killed the captured fish and analyzed the contents of their stomachs.

The results were surprising. Charr caught in the outlet river had tadpole shrimp in their stomaches. This discovery was unexpected because young tadpole shrimp are planktonic, meaning they drift in the water instead of swimming, which is why they were previously thought to be unable to inhabit running waters. In fact, this was the first time the tadpole shrimp had ever been recorded in running waters and as a part of a charr’s diet on Spitsbergen.

One possible explanation for the tadpole shrimp’s presence in the outlet river is that the shrimp simply drifted from lake Straumsjøen and ponds connected to the river, according to the authors. However, this possibility was considered unlikely given the significant number of tadpole shrimp found in the diet of riverine charr.

Photo of the outlet river.
A section of the outlet river from Straumsjøen (Source: Borgstrøm et al.).

The more likely explanation takes three factors into account, one of which is the glacier. First, the eggs and larva of the tadpole shrimp are adhesive and able to attach to rocks and other objects within the rivers. This trait would allow the shrimp to avoid being washed away down the river. Secondly, the presence of the tadpole shrimp in the rivers could signal low fish density. A lower fish density would allow the tadpole shrimp population to remain steady and still contribute to the charr diets.

The third factor is the retreat of the glacier Geabreen which feeds lake Straumsjøen and its outlet river. The glacier’s retreat has caused a subsequent decrease in the discharge of cold, silty meltwater into the lake. Thus, the presence of the tadpole shrimp in the Straumsjøen watercourse may be a result of the upstream retreat of the Geabreen, as resultant river conditions are now more conducive to tadpole shrimp, lead author Reidar Borgstrøm told GlacierHub.

The changing climate driving the retreat of the Geabreen glacier is also likely to impact river conditions and in turn tadpole shrimp populations. Under future climate change scenarios, the Arctic is projected to get warmer and wetter. Rising temperatures in Svalbard during the summer months, however, are unlikely to negatively impact the tadpole shrimp as populations of this widely distributed species in southern Norway, where summers are already fairly warm, have remained stable, Borgstrøm said.

Photo of Spitsbergen
A glacier on Spitsbergen, the island where the study took place (Source: Fins and Fluke/Twitter)

Increased rainfall in conjunction with increased glacial meltwater, on the other hand, could have a negative effect on the tadpole shrimp, as the heightened streamflow could potentially flush the tadpole shrimp from the river. These changing conditions may cause riverine tadpole shrimp populations to fall, which would in turn have a cascading effect on the Arctic charr who rely on the shrimp as a major source of food in the Straumsjøen watercourse.

Future studies in both Svalbard and other places across the Arctic would help scientists better understand how glacial retreat and climate change will impact the tadpole shrimp and other species.

GlacierHub News Report 04-19-18

GlacierHub News Report 04-19-18

 

The GlacierHub News Report is a bi-monthly video news report that features some of our website’s top stories. This week, GlacierHub news is featuring recent stories on sea level rise, an ancient tunic, an avalanche that took place in Russia, and even the 100th year anniversary of a world famous mint.

This week’s news report features:

Future Sea-Level Rise and the Paris Agreement

By: Andrew Angle

Summary: The goal of Paris Agreement is to hold global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius. However, any rise in temperatures means sea-level rise will occur to some extent. A recent study in Nature Communications examined the implications of the Paris Agreement for future sea-level rise, finding that if the current country contributions are met in full, sea-levels would rise between 1.05 and 1.23 meters.

Read more here.

Reconstructing Norway’s Oldest Garment: the Tunic of Lendbreen

By: Natalie Belew

Summary: In 2011, archaeologists came across a crumpled piece of cloth in the ice of Lendbreen Glacier. When examined, it turned out to be an incredibly well-preserved 1,700-year-old tunic that became the oldest piece of clothing found in Norway. Now it has been reconstructed, and a recent study documented the process. Starting this summer, the original Lendbreen tunic will be on display alongside one its reconstructions at the Norwegian Mountain Center, while the other will be part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.

Read more here.

Avalanche Strikes Near Russian Glacier

By: Jade Payne

Summary: An avalanche struck at a ski resort on the slopes of Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus on March 24. The trigger, in this case, was the accumulation of meltwater, which made the snow heavier and more prone to falling. The snow was also tinted a rust-like color. Stanislav Kutuzov, head of the Department of Glaciology at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, told GlacierHub that the “atmospheric front of March 22 to 24 brought large amounts of precipitation together with dust from the Libyan desert.” The dust, from North Africa, reached the Caucasus Mountains on March 23, one day before the avalanche. The avalanche did not cause any deaths or injuries, but it did cover at least a dozen cars that stood in its path.

Read more here.

Fox’s Glacier Mints Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

By: Sabrina Ho Yen Yin

Summary: This month, Fox’s Glacier Mints, a famous candy brand from the United Kingdom, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Making use of the similarities between glaciers and mints as refreshing and cool, we look back at the company’s clever use of the imagery of glaciers in marketing their transparent mints. The mascot for the candy is Peppy, a polar bear that is well-recognized by the brand’s lovers. Peppy has appeared in various television commercials with a fox interacting in glacier settings, British humor-style.

Read more here.


Video Credits:

Presenters: Brian Poe Llamanzares, Angela Soriano

Video Editor: Brian Poe Llamanzares

Writer: Brian Poe Llamanzares

News Intro: YouTube

Music: iMovie

Roundup: Karakoram Glaciers, Comparing Bacteria, and Carabid Beetles

Anomalous Stable Glaciers in the Karakoram Mountains

From Climate Dynamics: “Glaciers over the central Himalaya have retreated at particularly rapid rates in recent decades, while glacier mass in the Karakoram appears stable. To address the meteorological factors associated with this contrast, 36 years of Climate Forecast System Reanalyses (CFSR) are dynamically downscaled from 1979 to 2015 with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over High Mountain Asia at convection permitting grid spacing (6.7 km). In all seasons, CFSR shows an anti-cyclonic warming trend over the majority of High Mountain Asia, but distinctive differences are observed between the central Himalaya and Karakoram in winter and summer.”

Read more about the climatic differences between the central Himalaya and Karakoram here.

Payu peak (6610 m), Pakistan Karakoram Mountains (Source: Robert Koster/Flickr).

Microbial Differences of Two Andean Lakes

From Aquatic Microbiology: “The limnological signatures of Laguna Negra and Lo Encañado, two oligotrophic Andean lakes which receive water from Eucharren Glacier and are exposed to the same climatic scenario, were driven by the characteristics of the corresponding sub-watersheds. The abundance of phototrophic bacteria is a significant metabolic difference between the microbial communities of the lakes which is not correlated to the Chla concentration.”

Read more about microbial differences of two Andean lakes here.

Laguna Negra (Source: PoL Úbeda Hervàs/Flickr).

Carabid Beetles in Norway

From Norwegian Journal of Entomology: “Nine species of carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) were pitfall-trapped during two years in an alpine glacier foreland of southern Norway. A two-year (biennial) life cycle was documented for Nebria nivalis (Paykull, 1790), N. rufescens (Ström, 1768), and Patrobus septentrionis Dejean, 1828. This was based on the simultaneous hibernation of larvae and adults. In P. septentrionis, both larvae and adults showed a considerable activity beneath snow. A limited larval material of Amara alpina (Paykull, 1790) and A. quenseli (Schönherr, 1806) from the snow-free period indicated larval hibernation. A. quenseli was, however, not synchronized with respect to developmental stages, and its life cycle was difficult to interpret.”

Read more about the ecology of carabid beetles in an alpine glacier foreland here.

Seven carabid beetles from the glacier foreland of Southern Norway (Source: Norwegian Journal of Entomology).

 

Discovery of a Major Medieval Glacier Lake in Svalbard

Map of Svalbard with the location of the ancient lake marked at Braganzavågen, a bay in the van Mijenfjorden fjord on the island of Spitsbergen. (Source: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency/Google Earth).

Up in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, ice and glaciers cover around 60 percent of the area and have long defined its geographical formation and ecological integrity. One major glacial process that has transformed the Svalbard landscape is glacier surging, a short-lived event of extremely rapid glacier buildup ranging from a few months to a couple of years. Recently, a team of scientists led by Astrid Lyså published a study in Boreas presenting the story of a dramatic glacier surge during the 14th century that dammed off a stream and created a temporary lake in inner van Mijenfjorden at Braganzavågen. The authors report, at its fullest size, the short-lived lake was the largest of any known lake in the entire archipelago for the last 10,000 years at an estimated 77 square kilometers.

In Svalbard, “the glaciers are shaping the landscape on all scales, from eroding the large fjords to small scratches and striations on bedrock surfaces,” says Eiliv Larsen of the Geological Survey of Norway, one of the scientists involved in the study. However, according to the study, it is uncommon for glacier surging to result in lake damming and difficult for scientists to detect them. “The recognition of short-lived lake events is challenging in general, and even more so when a lake became dammed as a result of a surging glacier,” states the study.

One of the important components of analyzing surge-type phenomenon included sedimentary rock formations found at the bottom of the ancient lake. But knowledge of the existence of short-lived lakes from the sedimentary record is “difficult to establish due to the relatively poor preservation potential of shorelines, spillways and thin coverings of lacustrine sediments that constitute evidence of their presence,” adds Fiona Tweed, a professor of geography at the Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, who spoke to GlacierHub about the findings. “These traces are unlikely to survive in environments where subaerial processes are highly active on glacier retreat.”

Mouth of a glacier at Svalbard (Source: GRID Arendal/Flickr).

Thus, the study required the cooperation of various types of historical, geomorphological, as well as geological information to figure out the life of this particular lake. In addition to the sedimentary records, geomorphological mapping through the analysis of paleo-shoreline remnants helped scientists understand the extent of the lake and its evolution and decay. Sediment core analyses elaborated on the mapping by detecting environmental changes on the fjord from a bay, which became a freshwater lake when cut off by the surging glacier, and its return to a tidal flat of the fjord. Witold Szczuciński, another scientist involved in the study from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, explained how geochronology was the key in bringing all the data together as well as a good understanding of the system, including the interactions and limitations of each component.

“Compiling geological data is very often like a puzzle, and the challenge is to fit the pieces together,” Larsen told GlacierHub. “This research was definitely of that sort, and it is a process that starts in the field, making observations and collecting samples and data, going via analyses and many trials and discussions before a final result.”

For many scholars in the field, the compilation of information is what made this study so remarkable. “For me, the significance of this work lies in the holistic, multidisciplinary approach that has been used to decode the landform and sedimentary evidence,” Tweed said.

In addition to the cause of its unusual formation, another phenomenal component of the lake was how quickly it formed. Perhaps the most impressive finding was how short-lived the lake was, possibly just one season, and the enormous size of the end moraine system deposited during the surge. “This is really footprints of very active and strong forces at play,” Larsen said.

Wesley Farnsworth, a Ph.D. candidate at the University Center in Svalbard and the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, told GlacierHub that this was not the first study from Svalbard to focus on a paleo-ice-dammed lake. There are numerous such events, deposits, and histories that remain undocumented and unstudied in the region. “I find it particularly intriguing that relatively short-lived events can have such an extended impact on the landscape,” he said. “Glaciers and ice caps can be valuable indicators for past climate, making them key archives for extending our understanding of temperature and precipitation beyond the instrumental record.” For example, studying past changes in high latitude glaciers allows a better understanding of the role of the Arctic in the global climate system and aids scientists in more effectively predicting antecedent climate scenarios.

Although most glaciers across the world are retreating, many of Svalbard’s glaciers demonstrate surge patterns similar to the one that led to the lake formation 700 years ago. The study notes both scientific and practical reasons for deepening our understanding of these phenomena, in particular, the fact that damming and draining of these lakes can pose hazards to humans and infrastructure. Szczuciński told GlacierHub that various estimates state 13 to over 90 percent of Svalbard’s glaciers are surge-type and undergo the cyclical rapid advances followed by longer periods of retreat.

Given how fast and extensive this ancient lake formed in the 14th century due to a surging glacier, studies on past glacial activities are quintessential to understanding glacier surge events and how they could impact society in the face of a changing climate.

Reconstructing Norway’s Oldest Garment: the Tunic of Lendbreen

The Discovery

An ancient tunic was discovered at Lendbreen Glacier in Norway.

On August 4, 2011, a hot summer sun exposed the upper edges of Lendbreen Glacier at the Lomseggen mountain in Breheimen National Park in Norway. An archaeological team was on the scene to excavate the area for potential findings from prehistoric times. After a treasure trove of a day with artifacts littering the ground, including ancient shoes, hunting gear, tent pegs, and even horse dung, the most significant surprise was when archaeologists came across what appeared to be a crumpled up piece of cloth. When examined it at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, it turned out to be an incredibly well-preserved 1,700-year-old tunic, the oldest piece of clothing found in Norway and one of only a few surviving garments from the 1st millennium A.D. in all of Europe.

“It’s very rarely that we find well-preserved clothing from prehistoric times,” explains Marianne Vedeler, professor at the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo to Yngve Vogt of the Apollan Research Magazine. “Only a handful of clothing like this has been found in Europe.”

Since the find, archaeologists and conservators have worked to study this tunic to learn more about its mysterious past. Who wore the tunic? Why was it left in the glacier? How was it made? What raw materials were used, and how time-consuming was the process? Vedeler and Swedish handweaver Lena Hammarlund recently published an article about the reconstruction process to find the answers.

The History

With climate change rapidly melting glaciers across the world, archaeologists have been able to uncover the story behind the ice. The day of discovery on August 4 revealed much more than the tunic and multitudes of other artifacts. Researchers also discovered the area was once a glaciated mountain pass.

As visualized in this eight-minute video on the history and reconstruction of the Lendbreen tunic, the Lomseggen mountain, home to the Lendbreen glacier, now separates the modern villages of Lom and Skjak. Archaeologists determined that this was once a passage used during the Iron Age as a transport route for people traveling between valleys, such as Bøverdalen and Ottadalen.

“The upland areas in which snow patches are found are little frequented by humans today, but hunting and trapping have been carried out there since prehistoric times. Reindeer often congregate on snow patches in late summer to regulate their body temperature and to avoid parasitic insects, making them attractive hunting grounds,” explained a study by Vedeler and Nordic archaeologist Lise Bender Jørgensen back in 2013.

Fieldwork at the Lendbreen Glacier where archaeologists stumbled across the tunic (Source: Secrets of Ice/Twitter).

Why was the tunic left behind? Many hypotheses are up in the air. Mai Bakken of the Norwegian Mountain Center in Lom described how treacherous the mountain passes were in the ancient past. “It was quicker to go over the mountain pass than to go round. The glaciers in those days were much bigger, and easy to walk on. The tunic may have been lost on just such a trip,” Bakke told Medieval Histories back in 2014. But given the extended use of the tunic, Vedeler and other archaeologists don’t see how it would have been carelessly cast aside. Another possible account is that the tunic was left at a place where people had camped to hunt reindeer. Perhaps the hunting party had gotten caught up in a storm and died.

 

The Reconstruction

In the realm of archaeology, textiles are difficult to preserve over time. “Artifacts from different periods are found deposited in the ice patches, many of them made of organic material rarely preserved elsewhere,” indicates the study. “Ice patches often provide exceptionally good conservation conditions for textiles.”

The original Lendbreen Tunic (Source: Secrets of the Ice/Twitter).

The Lendbreen tunic is estimated to have been made between 230 and 390 A.D. and gives archaeologists and historians a glimpse of what life would have been like 1,700 years ago. Woven from sheep’s wool, it is of a basic cut and was evidently frequently used with repaired patches on the back, indicating its extensive use 1,700 years ago. It is also relatively short, with historians concluding it was meant for a man or boy of slender build. Overall, specialists claim the yarns and patterns in the tunic were of a standard Iron Age practice and not requiring expert knowledge to produce.

However, it is evident the tunic was time-consuming to make. “In prehistory, the time spent on fiber preparation, spinning, and weaving must have varied greatly depending on differences in the raw materials and the tools used, and the knowledge and skills of the people producing the textiles,” stated the study, “It must still have been a very time-consuming task to produce a textile. This applies to everyday fabrics as well as to the most valuable ones.”

Regarding the reconstruction process, Vedeler and Hammarlund had two goals with the Lendbreen tunic project. The first one was to create two new tunics as similar as possible to the original, using old-fashioned techniques in hopes to recreate the process. But there was also a broader aim to the reconstruction, according to the study: “to gain greater knowledge of time and labor used in each step of the chain of production by analyzing the original fabric. It is known that prehistoric textile production was a very time-consuming process, but timing each step of the process gave a more detailed picture.”

With the reconstruction process complete, it took 760 hours for handweavers to reproduce the tunic from scratch using old-fashioned techniques. They used wool from traditional breeds of sheep in western Norway that could have been used to create the yarn in the tunic. Although Vedeler and Hammarlund quickly discovered it would be too expensive not to use machines, they indicated it was still an incredibly laborious process to accurately stitch the tunic.

An image of the Lendbreen tunic reconstruction (Source: scientiflix/Twitter).

The Legacy

Today, the museum curators at the Norwegian Mountain Center in Lom and the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo are busy preparing the new exhibits that will showcase the tunic and its reconstructions. The original Lendbreen tunic will be on display alongside one its reconstructions at the Norwegian Mountain Center, while the other will be part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.

Bakken of the Norwegian Mountain Center shared with GlacierHub the excitement surrounding the tunic and its reconstruction. “We look forward to having the original in our new exhibition. It was exciting to follow the reconstruction of the tunic and very nice for the museum to have an authentic copy,” she told GlacierHub. She additionally described that they are both an important part of the exhibition, “Spellbound,” opening in June.

With climate change melting glaciers like the Lendbreen at unprecedented rates, hundreds of artifacts emerge from the ice every summer, presenting clues to piecing together the lives of communities dependent on glaciers and the interconnected relationship between the humans and the rest of the environment.