Roundup: Antarctic Species Diversity, Credit Ratings, and an Alaskan Podcast

What Happens to Species Diversity as Glaciers Melt?

Published in July 2019, a study looked at the effects of melting glaciers on seafloor species diversity in Antarctica.

Antarctic ice meeting the sea. 
Source: Tak from HK/ Creative Commons.

As glaciers melt, more sediment is released into the surrounding waters and can smother seafloor communities. As part of the same process, more icebergs are created which can scrape the bottom of the ocean, removing the top layers of sediment, known as soft sediment. 

Soft sediment contains a great deal of life and plays an important role in marine ecosystems The study explains that it is one of the “key components of energy flow through food webs” and is important “in sedimentary processes especially nutrient and carbon cycling, waste breakdown and removal.” 

The authors wrote that it was “the first study to comprehensively analyse the composition of Antarctic soft sediment metazoan communities across all size classes, from < 1 mm up to 10 cm, in two geographically distinct coves.”

The study found that “in contrast to findings from rocky substrata, there was no evidence of an effect of typical Antarctic stressors of iceberg scour and intense seasonality. As at other latitudes, organic content of the sediment was most strongly correlated with community structure, suggesting that increased sedimentation from run-off from melting glaciers may be the main climate change effect on these communities.”

Credit rating agency buys climate risk firm

A New York Times article explains the credit rating agency Moody’s purchase of Four Twenty Seven, a firm that measures climate risk: 

A helicopter dropping water over the 2018 Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires in Oregon.
Source:  Forest Service Photography/ Creative Commons

“Sudden shocks such as floods, wildfires or storms can hurt businesses and send residents fleeing, taking away the tax revenue that governments use to pay their debts. And longer-term threats — such as rising seas or higher temperatures — can make those places less desirable to live in, hurting property values and, in turn, the amount raised by taxes.

Rating agencies translate those risks, along with more traditional factors such as a government’s cash flow and debt levels, into a credit rating, which communicates to investors the odds that a government will be unable to repay its bondholders. Lower ratings generally mean that borrowers need to offer investors a higher return to account for that risk.

Following a string of deadly hurricanes and wildfires in 2017, Moody’s, along with S&P Global and Fitch Ratings, issued reports warning state and local governments that their exposure to climate risk could affect their credit ratings.”

Alaskan glacier podcast 

Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier. 
Source: Jeff’s Canon/ Creative Commons

In a 25 minute podcast, Manasseh Franklin describes her experience following the water from a glacier in Alaska to the sea. She “wanted to make the melting of glaciers more real to people through her writing. So on an Alaskan rafting trip, she followed water to its source.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

What Moody’s Recent Acquisition Means for Assessing the Costs of the Climate Crisis

Rob Wallace Installed to Post in Department of the Interior

Dispatches from the Cryosphere: Intimate Encounters with the Intricate and Disappearing Ice of Everest Base Camp

Roundup: NASA Satellite, Swiss Drought and Alaska Earthquake

NASA, ULA Launch Mission to Track Earth’s Changing Ice

From NASA: “NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) successfully launched from California at 9:02 a.m. EDT Saturday September 15, embarking on its mission to measure the ice of Earth’s frozen reaches with unprecedented accuracy. ‘With this mission we continue humankind’s exploration of the remote polar regions of our planet and advance our understanding of how ongoing changes of Earth’s ice cover at the poles and elsewhere will affect lives around the world, now and in the future,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. ICESat-2 continues the record of ice height measurements started by NASA’s original ICESat mission, which operated from 2003 to 2009.”

Read more about ICESat-2 here.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket is seen as it launches with the NASA Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) onboard, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 (Source: Bill Ingalls/NASA).

 

Swiss Army Airlifts Water to Cows During Drought

From Reuters: “Swiss army helicopters began airlifting water on Tuesday to thousands of thirsty cows who are suffering in a drought and heatwave that has hit much of Europe. Large red plastic containers hung from the bottom of the Super Puma helicopters carried the water to farms in the Jura Mountains and Alpine foothills. Some 40,000 cows graze in the summertime in high-altitude pastures in Vaud canton (state) in western Switzerland and each needs up to 150 liters (40 gallons) of water a day, authorities said.”

Find out more about the drought hitting the alpine foothills of Switzerland here.

Photo of a cow and a helicopter
Cow grazing in a pasture in Switzerland with a Swiss Army helicopter carrying water in the background (Source: Ryder-Walker/Twitter).

 

Warnings Abound Before Alaska Landslide and Tsunami

From Live Science: “A massive landslide and tsunami that denuded the slopes of an Alaskan fjord could reveal warning signs that could help predict future disasters. In a new paper, researchers described the geological fingerprints of the tsunami, which tore through Taan Fjord on Oct.17, 2015, at an estimated 100 mph (162 km/h). Using satellite imagery and field-based measurements, the team discovered that the slope was displaying signs of instability for at least two decades before it failed. The rugged landscape is dotted with glaciers, including the Tyndall Glacier.”

Discover more about the severe Alaska landslide in 2015 here.

An island in Taan Fiord, about 10 km from the landslide at Tyndall Glacier, shown by satellite in 2014 (left) and a few days after the landslide and tsunami (right) (Source: AGU).

Roundup: Harbor Seals, River Communities and Iceberg Melt

Glacial Habitats of Alaskan Harbor Seals

From Marine Mammal Science: “Harbor seals, Phoca vitulina, use diverse haul-out substrates including ice calved by tidewater glaciers. Numbers of seals at glacial and terrestrial haul-outs on the southeastern Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, were assessed using aerial, vessel, and video surveys. Mean annual abundance at glacial and terrestrial haul-outs differed temporally. From 2004 to 2011, numbers of seals counted during the molt increased 5.4%/yr at glacial haul-outs and 9%/yr at terrestrial haul-outs while numbers of pups increased 5.0%/yr at glacial sites and 1.5%/yr at terrestrial sites.”

Learn more about how harbor seals use glacial habitats here.

Lounging harbor seals (Source: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith/Flickr).

 

River Invertebrate Biodiversity

From Nature Ecology & Evolution: “Global change threatens invertebrate biodiversity and its central role in numerous ecosystem functions and services. Functional trait analyses have been advocated to uncover global mechanisms behind biodiversity responses to environmental change, but the application of this approach for invertebrates is underdeveloped relative to other organism groups. From an evaluation of 363 records comprising >1.23 million invertebrates collected from rivers across nine biogeographic regions on three continents, consistent responses of community trait composition and diversity to replicated gradients of reduced glacier cover are demonstrated.”

Read more about the response of river invertebrates to decreasing glacier cover here.

River invertebrates, like this one here, were shown to respond reasonably predictably to decreasing glacier cover globally (Source: University of Leeds/Twitter).

 

Greenland’s Freshwater Budget

From Nature Geoscience: “Liquid freshwater fluxes from the Greenland ice sheet affect ocean water properties and circulation on local, regional and basin-wide scales, with associated biosphere effects. The exact impact, however, depends on the volume, timing, and location of freshwater releases, which are poorly known. In particular, the transformation of icebergs, which make up roughly 30–50% of the loss of the ice-sheet mass to liquid freshwater, is not well understood. Here we estimate the spatial and temporal distribution of the freshwater flux for the Helheim–Sermilik glacier–fjord system in southeast Greenland using an iceberg-melt model that resolves the subsurface iceberg melt. By estimating seasonal variations in all the freshwater sources, we confirm quantitatively that iceberg melt is the largest annual freshwater source in this system type.”

Discover more about the freshwater flux of iceberg melt from Greenland’s ice sheet here.

Satellite image of summer (left) and winter (right) fjord conditions for Helheim (H), Midgaard (M) and Fenris (F) glaciers (Source: Moon et al.).

Roundup: Ice-cliff Instability, Buffers, and Glacial Retreat

Future Acceleration of Antarctic Ice Sheet Retreat

From Nature: “Marine ice-cliff instability (MICI) processes could accelerate future retreat of the Antarctic Ice Sheet if ice shelves that buttress grounding lines more than 800 meters below sea level are lost. The present-day grounding zones of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica need to retreat only short distances before they reach extensive retrograde slopes. When grounding zones of glaciers retreat onto such slopes, theoretical considerations and modelling results indicate that the retreat becomes unstable (marine ice-sheet instability) and thus accelerates. It is thought that MICI is triggered when this retreat produces ice cliffs above the water line with heights approaching about 90 meters.”

Discover more about how marine ice-cliff instability could accelerate future retreat of the Antarctic Ice Sheet here.

A massive crack extends across the  Pine Island Glacier in 2011. (Source: NASA).

 

Glacier Melt Reduces Buffer Capacity

From Waters Resources Research: “Glaciers store large amounts of water in the form of ice. They grow and shrink dominantly in response to climatic conditions. In Central Asia, where rivers originate in the high mountains, glaciers are an important source for sustainable water availability. Thus, understanding the link between climate, hydrology, and glacier evolution is fundamental. Some instruments mounted on satellites are capable of monitoring glaciers. However, the potential of these sensors is limited by technical constraints that will affect the availability and precision of the products. In order to overcome these shortcomings and investigate glacier dynamics, we use a numerical model that represents the relevant processes of the hydrological cycle with a very fine spatial and temporal resolution. Our results show that glaciers buffer extreme weather conditions to provide sustainable river flow. This functionality is put in jeopardy due to the currently observed glacier retreat, in the Pamir Mountains.”

Read more about how glaciers buffer against river runnoff here.

Image of ice-covered mountains in the distanc
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in central Asia (Source: Allan Grey/Flickr).

How will Asia’s Glaciers React to Increases in Global Temperature?

From Nature: “Glaciers in the high mountains of Asia (HMA) make a substantial contribution to the water supply of millions of people, and they are retreating and losing mass as a result of anthropogenic climate change at similar rates to those seen elsewhere. In the Paris Agreement of 2015, 195 nations agreed on the aspiration to limit the level of global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius ( °C) above pre-industrial levels. However, it is not known what an increase of 1.5 °C would mean for the glaciers in HMA. Here we show that a global temperature rise of 1.5 °C will lead to a warming of 2.1 ± 0.1 °C in HMA, and that 64 ± 7 per cent of the present-day ice mass stored in the HMA glaciers will remain by the end of the century.”

Learn more about the impact of climate change and increasing temperature on Asia’s glaciers here.

Map showing glacial loss under a 1.5ºC increase in global average temperature
This map shows regional temperature increases and projected glacial area (Source: Kraaijenbrink et al. ).

Roundup: Glacier Park, Lahars, and Glacial Ecosystems

Roundup: Glacier Park, Lahars and Ecosystems

Glacier National Park Embraces Sustainability

From Xanterra: “Just 150 years ago, 150 glaciers graced these spectacular alpine summits. Only 25 remain large enough today to be considered ‘functional,’ say scientists who expect the park’s glaciers to vanish by 2030, with many disappearing before that. People heeding the advice to visit soon will find a variety of national park lodging and dining spots that are making environmental stewardship part of the park experience.”

Read more about it here.

 

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Glacier National Park (Source: Gracie Chance/Creative Commons).

 

Washington State’s Lahar Preparedness

From Journal of Applied Volcanology: “As populations around the world encroach upon the flanks of nearby volcanoes, an increasing number of people find themselves living at risk from volcanic hazards. How these individuals respond to the threats posed by volcanic hazards influences the effectiveness of official hazard mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. Ideally, those who are aware of the hazards and concerned should feel motivated to become better prepared; however, research repeatedly shows that an accurate risk perception often fails to generate adequate preparedness… This study explores the barriers that people in the Skagit Valley of Washington face when deciding whether or not to prepare for lahars as well as the impact of participation in hazard management on household preparedness behaviors.”

Read more about Washington’s lahar preparedness here.

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Mount Baker poses a threat from lahars (Source: sworldguy/Creative Commons).

 

How Changing Climate Affects Ecosystems

From Environmental Research Letters: “Climate change is undeniably occurring across the globe, with warmer temperatures and climate and weather disruptions in diverse ecosystems (IPCC 2013, 2014). In the Arctic and Subarctic, climate change has proceeded at a particularly breakneck pace (ACIA 2005)… However, climate warming is forecast to be even more extreme in the future. In order to predict the impacts of further global change, experiments have simulated these future conditions by warming the air and/or soil, increasing CO2 levels, altering nutrient fertilization, modifying precipitation, or manipulating snow cover and snowmelt timing (Elmendorf et al 2015, Wu et al 2011, Bobbink et al 2010, Cooper 2014). Changes in biodiversity at high latitudes are expected to have profound impacts on ecosystem functioning, processes, and services (Post et al 2009).”

Read more about how changing climate affects ecosystems here.

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Small herbs and plants can provide food for animals (Source: Will Stuart/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Rock Glaciers, Ice Tongues and Flood Warnings

Roundup: Rock Glaciers, Floating Glaciers, and Flood Warnings

Ecology of Active Rock Glaciers

From Boreas: “Active rock glaciers are periglacial landforms (areas that lie adjacent to a glacier or ice sheet that freeze and thaw) consisting of coarse debris with interstitial ice (ice formed in the narrow space between rocks and sediment) or ice-core. Recent studies showed that such landforms are able to support plant and arthropod life and could act as warm-stage refugia for cold-adapted species due to their microclimate features and thermal inertia. However, integrated research comparing active rock glaciers with surrounding landforms to outline their ecological peculiarities is still scarce… Our data show remarkable differences between stable slopes and unstable landforms as a whole, while few differences occur between active scree slopes and active rock glaciers: such landforms show similar soil features but different ground surface temperatures (lower on active rock glaciers) and different occurrence of cold-adapted species (more frequent/abundant on active rock glaciers)… The role of active rock glaciers as potential warm-stage refugia for cold-adapted species is supported by our data; however, at least in the European Alps, their role in this may be less important than that of debris-covered glaciers, which are able to host cold-adapted species even below the climatic tree line.”

Read more about the role of active rock glaciers as potential warm-stage refugia here:

Rock glaciers in the European Alps (source: M Barton / Flickr).
Rock glaciers in the European Alps (source: M Barton/Flickr).

 

Fluid-Ice Structure Interaction of the Drygalski Ice Tongue

From UTAS: “The Drygalski Ice Tongue (DIT) is the largest floating glacier in Antarctica, extending approximately 120km into McMurdo Sound, and exhibits a significant influence upon the prevailing northward current, as the ice draft (measurement of ice thickness below the waterline) of the majority of the DIT is greater than the depth of the observed well-mixed surface layer. This influence is difficult to characterize using conventional methods such as in-situ LADCP (Lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) measurements, vertically collected profiles or long-term moorings as these are generally relatively spatially sparse datasets. In order to better relate measurements across the entire region of influence of the DIT region, a set of Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations (uses numerical analysis to analyze fluid flows) were conducted using a generalized topography of a mid-span transect of the DIT… Numerical modeling of environmental flows around ice structures advances the knowledge of the fluid dynamics of the system in not only the region surrounding the DIT but also provides a clearer insight into fluid-ice structure interactions and heat flux in the system. This may lead to a better understanding of the long-term fate of floating glaciers.”

Learn more about fluid-ice structure interactions here:

Drygalski ice tonguet (source: cohnveno / Flickr).
Drygalski ice tonguet (source: cohnveno/Flickr).

 

Flood Early Warning Systems (EWSs) in Bhutan

From ICIMOD: “Bhutan experiences frequent hydrometeorological disasters. In terms of relative exposure to flood risk as a percentage of population, Bhutan ranks fourth highest in the Asia-Pacific region, with 1.7% of its total population exposed to flood risk. It is likely that climate change will increase the frequency and severity of flood disasters in Bhutan. Inequalities in society are often amplified at the times of disaster and people living in poverty, especially women, the elderly, and children, are particularly vulnerable to flood hazards. Timely and reliable flood forecasting and early warnings that consider the needs of both women and men can contribute to saving lives and property. Early warning systems (EWSs) that are people-centered, accurate, timely, and understandable to communities at risk and that recommend the appropriate action to be taken by vulnerable communities can save people more effectively. To improve the understanding of existing early warning systems (EWSs) in the region and their effectiveness, ICIMOD has conducted an assessment of flood EWS in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan) from a gendered perspective. The objective is to support the development of timely, reliable, and effective systems that can save lives and livelihoods.”

Read more about flood early warning systems in Bhutan here:

UNDP Bhutan GOLF Thorthormi lake workers (source: UNDP / Flickr).
UNDP Bhutan GOLF Thorthormi lake workers (source: UNDP/Flickr).

Roundup: Sediments, Swamps and Sea Levels

Roundup: High Arctic, Peru, and Global Seas

 

Suspended Sediment in a High-Arctic River

From Science of The Total Environment: “Quantifying fluxes [the action of flowing] of water, sediment and dissolved compounds through Arctic rivers is important for linking the glacial, terrestrial and marine ecosystems and to quantify the impact of a warming climate… This study uses a 8-years data set (2005–2012) of daily measurements from the high-Artic Zackenberg River in Northeast Greenland to estimate annual suspended sediment fluxes based on four commonly used methods: M1) is the discharge weighted mean and uses direct measurements, while M2-M4) are one uncorrected and two bias-corrected rating curves extrapolating a continuous concentration trace from measured values.”
 
Read more about suspended sediment fluxes here:
 

View of the Zackenberg River and Zackenberg Research Station (Source: Moser på Nordøst-Grønland/Creative Commons).
View of the Zackenberg River and Zackenberg Research Station (Source: Moser på Nordøst-Grønland/Creative Commons).

 

Glacier Recession in Cordillera Blanca

From Applied Geography: “Receding mountain glaciers affect the hydrology of downslope ecosystems with consequences for drinking water, agriculture, and hydropower production. Here we combined land cover derived from satellite imagery and other environmental data from the northern Peruvian Andes into a first differencing regression model to assess wetland hydrologic connectivity… The results indicate that there were two primary spatial driving forces of wetland change in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca from 1987 to 1995: 1) loss in glacier area was associated with increased wetland area, controlling for other factors; while 2) an increase in mean annual stream discharge in the previous 12 months increased wetland area.”
 
Learn more about the study here:

 

View of mountainside of Cordillera Blanca, Peru (Source: MacDawg/Creative Commons).
View of mountainside of Cordillera Blanca, Peru (Source: MacDawg/Creative Commons).

 

Observation-Based Estimates of Glacier Mass Change

From Surveys in Geophysics: “Glaciers have strongly contributed to sea-level rise during the past century and will continue to be an important part of the sea-level budget during the twenty-first century. Here, we review the progress in estimating global glacier mass change from in situ measurements of mass and length changes, remote sensing methods, and mass balance modeling driven by climate observations. For the period before the onset of satellite observations, different strategies to overcome the uncertainty associated with monitoring only a small sample of the world’s glaciers have been developed. These methods now yield estimates generally reconcilable with each other within their respective uncertainty margins. Whereas this is also the case for the recent decades, the greatly increased number of estimates obtained from remote sensing reveals that gravimetry-based methods typically arrive at lower mass loss estimates than the other methods. We suggest that strategies for better interconnecting the different methods are needed to ensure progress and to increase the temporal and spatial detail of reliable glacier mass change estimates.”
 
Read more about global sea-level rise here:

 

Calving front of the Upsala Glacier, Argentina (Source: NASA/Creative Commons).
Calving front of the Upsala Glacier, Argentina (Source: NASA/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Peruvian Climate, Tibetan Lakes, and Greenland’s Glaciers

Roundup: Peru, Tibet and Greenland

 

Project to Improve Climate Services in Peru

From Climate Services: “CLIMANDES is a pilot twinning project between the National Weather Services of Peru and Switzerland (SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss), developed within the Global Framework for Climate Services of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Split in two modules, CLIMANDES aims at improving education in meteorology and climatology in support of the WMO Regional Training Center in Peru, and introducing user-tailored climate services in two pilot regions in the Peruvian Andes… The efforts accomplished within CLIMANDES improved the quality of the climate services provided by SENAMHI.”

Read more about CLIMANDES here.

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Landscape of the Peruvian Andes from behind walls of Machu Piccu (Source: Mariano Mantel/Creative Commons).

 

Monitoring Lake Levels on the Tibetan Plateau

From Journal of Hydrology: “Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are of great interest due to their value as water resources but also as an important indicator of climate change. However, in situ data in this region are extremely scarce and only a few lakes have gauge measurements… In this study, Cryosat-2 SARIn mode data over the period 2010–2015 are used to investigate recent lake level variations… Lakes in the northern part of the TP experienced pronounced rising (avg. 0.37 ± 0.10 m/yr), while lakes in southern part were steady or decreasing even in glaciated basins with high precipitation… These results demonstrate that lakes on the TP are still rapidly changing under climate change, especially in northern part of the TP, but the driving factors are variable and more research is needed.”

Learn more about climate change on the Tibetan Plateau here.

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Aerial view of lakes of the Tibetan Plateau (Source: Stuart Rankin/Creative Commons).

 

Data Portal to Study Greenland’s Ice Sheet

From Eos: “A new web-based data portal gives scientists access to more than 40 years of satellite imagery, providing seasonal to long-term insights into outflows from Greenland’s ice sheet… This portal harnesses more than 37,000 images from Landsat archives, dating back to the early 1970s, to track changes in outlet glaciers over time… Through analyzing data from this portal, we can see in great detail how several outlet glaciers are speeding up their treks to the sea. What’s more, any user can access the data to conduct their own studies of glacier behavior at Greenland’s coasts through time.”

Read more about Greenland’s retreating glaciers here:

Aerial view of coastal Greenland glacier (Source: Terry Feuerborn/Creative Commons).
Aerial view of a coastal Greenland glacier (Source: Terry Feuerborn/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Glacier Retreat, Mountain Advocacy, and Precipitation

Roundup:  Glacier Retreat, César Portocarrero and Precipitation

 

Centennial-Scale Glacier Retreat

From Nature Geoscience: “The near-global retreat of glaciers over the last century provides some of the most iconic imagery for communicating the reality of anthropogenic climate change to the public. Surprisingly, however, there has not been a quantitative foundation for attributing the retreats to climate change, except in the global aggregate. This gap, between public perception and scientific basis, is due to uncertainties in numerical modelling and the short length of glacier mass-balance records… We demonstrate that observed retreats of individual glaciers represent some of the highest signal-to-noise ratios of climate change yet documented. Therefore, in many places, the centennial-scale retreat of the local glaciers does indeed constitute categorical evidence of climate change.”

Learn more about new climate discoveries here:

Image of Upsala Glacier retreat and Patagonia Icefield (Source: NASA/Creative Commons).
Image of Upsala Glacier retreat and Patagonia Icefield (Source: NASA/Creative Commons).

 

2016 Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal

From hillarymedal.com: On December 11, 2016, César Portocarrero of Cusco, Peru, received the 2017 Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal, the world’s most prestigious award for mountain advocacy. The theme of the presentation event, which took place in Kathmandu, was Science and Survival: Mountain Livelihoods, Recreation and Environments. According to the award announcement, “César Portocarrero has directed projects to mitigate the danger of outburst floods from numerous glacial lakes in the Andes, saving thousands of lives and many millions of dollars, and he is now sharing his expertise with members of the High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP), including Nepal, Bhutan, and several Central Asian nations.”

Read more about the 2016 award winner here:

Cesar Portocarrero at one of the Cordillera Blanca lakes
Cesar Portocarrero at one of the Cordillera Blanca lakes (Source: hillarymedal.org).

 

Precipitation Over the Himalaya

From Climate Dynamics: The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is used to simulate the spatiotemporal distribution of precipitation over central Asia over the year April 2005 through March 2006. Experiments are performed at 6.7 km horizontal grid spacing, with an emphasis on winter and summer precipitation over the Himalaya. The model and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission show a similar inter-seasonal cycle of precipitation, from extratropical cyclones to monsoon precipitation, with agreement also in the diurnal cycle of monsoon precipitation… These results indicate that WRF provides skillful simulations of precipitation relevant for studies of water resources over the complex terrain in the Himalaya.”

Read more about the WRF model here:

Snow over Kanjin Gompa, Nepal (Source: Raini Svensson/Creative Commons).
Snow over Kanjin Gompa, Nepal (Source: Raini Svensson/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Volcanoes, Cryoseismology and Hydropower

Roundup: Kamchatka, Cryoseismology and Bhutan

 

Activity in Kamchatka’s Glacier-Covered Volcanoes

From KVERT: “The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) monitors 30 active volcanoes of Kamchatka and six active volcanoes of Northern Kuriles [both in Russia]. Not all of these volcanoes had eruptions in historical time; however, they are potentially active and therefore are of concern to aviation... In Russia, KVERT, on behalf of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (IVS), is responsible for providing information on volcanic activity to international air navigation services for the airspace users.” Many of these volcanoes are glacier-covered, and the interactions between lava and ice can create dramatic ice plumes. Sheveluch Volcano currently has an orange aviation alert, with possible “ash explosions up to 26,200-32,800 ft (8-10 km) above sea level… Ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft.”

Read more about the volcanic warnings here, or check out GlacierHub’s collection of photos from the eruption of Klyuchevskoy.

Klyuchevskoy, one of the glacier-covered volcanoes in Kamchatka that KVERT monitors, erupting in 1993. (Source: Giorgio Galeotti/Flickr)
Klyuchevskoy, a glacier-covered volcano monitored by KVERT, erupting in 1993 (Source: Giorgio Galeotti/Creative Commons).

 

New Insights Into Seismic Activity Caused by Glaciers 

In Reviews of Geophysics: “New insights into basal motion, iceberg calving, glacier, iceberg, and sea ice dynamics, and precursory signs of unstable glaciers and ice structural changes are being discovered with seismological techniques. These observations offer an invaluable foundation for understanding ongoing environmental changes and for future monitoring of ice bodies worldwide… In this review we discuss seismic sources in the cryosphere as well as research challenges for the near future.”

Read more about the study here.

The calving front of an ice shelf in West Antarctica as seen from above (Source: NASA/Flickr)
The calving front of an ice shelf in West Antarctica (Source: NASA/Creative Commons).

 

The Future of Hydropower in Bhutan

From TheThirdPole.net: An interview with Chhewang Rinzin, the managing director of Bhutan’s Druk Green Power Corporation, reveals the multifaceted challenges involved in hydropower projects in Bhutan. These challenges include the effect of climate change on glaciers: “The glaciers are melting and the snowfall is much less than it was in the 1960s and 70s. That battery that you have in a form of snow and glaciers up there – which melts in the spring months and brings in additional water – will slowly go away…But the good news is that with climate change, many say that the monsoons will be wetter and there will be more discharge,” said Rinzin.

Check out the full interview with Chhewang Rinzin here. For more about hydropower in Bhutan, see GlacierHub’s earlier story.

Hydropower plants are common in rivers fed by melting ice and snow in the Himalayas (Source: Kashyap Joshi/Wikimedia Commons)
A hydropower plant common in rivers fed by melting ice and snow in the Himalayas (Source: Kashyap Joshi/Creative Commons).

Roundup: Tragedy in Antarctica, Antimony and Glacier Risks

Roundup: Tragedy, Antimony and Risk

 

Prominent Climate Scientist Dies in Antarctica

New York Times: “Gordon Hamilton, a prominent climate scientist who studied glaciers and their impact on sea levels in a warming climate, died in Antarctica when the snowmobile he was riding plunged into a 100-foot-deep crevasse. He was an associate research professor in the glaciology group at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. He was camping with his research team on what is known as the Shear Zone, where two ice shelves meet in an expanse three miles wide and 125 miles long. Parts of the Shear Zone can be up to 650 feet thick and ‘intensely crevassed.’ Dr. Hamilton’s research, aided by a pair of robots equipped with ground-penetrating radar instruments, focused on the impact of a warming climate on sea levels. He was working with an operations team to identify crevasses.”

Learn more about the tragedy here.

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Professor Gordon Hamilton (Source: University of Maine).

 

Antimony Found in the Tibetan Glacial Snow

Journal of Asian Earth Sciences: “Antimony (Sb) is a ubiquitous element in the environment that is potentially toxic at very low concentrations. In this study, surface snow/ice and snowpit samples were collected from four glaciers in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau in June 2015… The average Sb concentration in the study area was comparable to that recorded in a Mt. Everest ice core and higher than that in Arctic and Antarctic snow/ice but much lower than that in Tien Shan and Alps ice cores… Backward trajectories revealed that the air mass arriving at the southeastern Tibetan Plateau mostly originated from the Bay of Bengal and the South Asia in June. Thus, pollutants from the South Asia could play an important role in Sb deposition in the studied region. The released Sb from glacier meltwater in the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding areas might pose a risk to the livelihoods and well-being of those in downstream regions.”

Read more about the research here.

Location map showing the sampling glaciers in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. The red dots represent the location of the four investigated glaciers, and the size represents the average concentrations of Sb in the separate glacier.
Location map showing glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau (Source: Elsevier Ltd).

 

Managing Glacier Related Risks Disaster in Peru

The Climate Change Adaption Strategies: A recently edited book, “The Climate Change Adaptation Strategies – An Upstream – Downstream Perspective,” edited by Nadine Salzmann et al., has several chapters on glaciers. The chapter “Managing Glacier Related Risks Disaster in the Chucchún Catchment, Cordillera Blanca, Peru” discusses some of these glacier related risks: “Glacial lakes hazards have been a constant factor in the population of the Cordillera Blanca due their potential to generate glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) caused by climate change. In response, the Glaciares Project has been carried out to implement three strategies to reduce risks in the Chucchún catchment through: (1) Knowledge generation, (2) building technical and institutional capacities, and (3) the institutionalization of risk management. As a result, both the authorities and the population have improved their resilience to respond to the occurrence of GLOF.”

Explore more related chapters here.

Evolution of the Lake 513 from 1962 to 2002 due to glacial retreat. Diagrams performed over aerial photographs from the National Aerial Photography Service Peru (left) and Google Earth (right) (Source: Randy Muñoz)
Evolution of the Lake 513 from 1962 to 2002 due to glacial retreat (Source: The Climate Change Adaptation Strategies).

Roundup: Pakistan’s Glaciers, Jobless Sherpas, Ancient Rivers

This Week’s Roundup:

Pakistan has more glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth. But they are at risk.

From The Washington Post:

Mohammad Idrees, 11, eats ice that has been hacked from the mountain peaks by vendors and offered for sale along a road in the Chitral Valley last month (Source: Insiya Syed /For The Washington Post).

“For generations, the glacier clinging to Miragram Mountain, a peak that towers above the village, has served as a reservoir for locals and powered myriad streams throughout Pakistan’s scenic Chitral Valley. Now, though, the villagers say that their glacier — and their way of life — is in retreat….

With 7,253 known glaciers, including 543 in the Chitral Valley, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. Those glaciers feed rivers that account for about 75 percent of the stored-water supply in the country of at least 180 million.

But as in many other parts of the world, researchers say, Pakistan’s glaciers are receding, especially those at lower elevations, including here in the Hindu Kush mountain range in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Among the causes cited by scientists: diminished snowfall, higher temperatures, heavier summer rainstorms and rampant deforestation.”

Read the full story here.

 

Sherpas Denied Summit Certificates

From The Himalayan Times:

Climbers ascending the Lhotse face on Mt Everest. Photo credit: Garrett Madison
Climbers ascending the Lhotse face on Mt Everest (Source: Garrett Madison/THT)

“The Department of Tourism, under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, has refused to award high-altitude workers summit certificates, citing a clause of the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation that bars them from obtaining government certificates….

He said DoT couldn’t issue certificates to Sherpas as per the existing law, claiming that high-altitude workers are not considered a part of the expedition as per the Mountaineering Expedition Regulation that was framed in 2002. ‘The regulation considers only those who obtain climbing permit by paying royalty to the government as members of an expedition’ [Laxman Sharma, Director at DoT’s Mountaineering Section, told THT].

This is the first time in the country’s mountaineering history that Sherpas have failed to obtain government certificates despite successfully scaling mountains.”

Read the full article here.

 

Ancient Rivers Beneath Greenland Glacier

From Live Science:

Image from the research article published in Nature (Source: Cooper et al, 2016/Live Science).

“A network of ancient rivers lies frozen in time beneath one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, new research reveals.

The subglacial river network, which threads through much of Greenland’s landmass and looks, from above, like the tiny nerve fibers radiating from a brain cell, may have influenced the fast-moving Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier over the past few million years.

‘The channels seem to be instrumental in controlling the location and form of the Jakobshavn ice stream — and seem to show a clear influence on the onset of fast flow in this region,’ study co-author Michael Cooper, a doctoral candidate in geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. ‘Without the channels present underneath, the glacier may not exist in its current location or orientation.”

Full story continued here.