Roundup: Project Pressure Exhibition, Melting Swiss Glaciers Provide Opportunity, and The Tibetan Snowcock

“MELTDOWN” A Traveling Art Exhibition by Project Pressure

This summer catch the art exhibition “MELTDOWN” a visualization of climate change by world-renowned artists commissioned by Project Pressure, at the Natural History Museum, Vienna June 4 – September 8, 2019.

“Project Pressure uses art as a positive touch point to inspire engagement and behavioural change. The selected artworks in MELTDOWN relate to vanishing glaciers, to demonstrate the impact of climate change through various media. Unlike wildfires, flooding and other weather events, glacier mass loss can be 100% attributed to global temperature changes and as such, they are key indicators of climate change. The exhibition is a narrative of the importance of glaciers told in a scientific, illustrative and poetic way and each artist has a unique take on the subject. MELTDOWN shows scale from the planetary level to microscopic biological impact, and considers humanitarian suffering and more. Together the artistic interpretations in MELTDOWN give visitors unique insights into the world’s cryosphere, its fragile ecosystem and our changing global climate.”

The second stop will be Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, opening the 23rd of November.

Switzerland Is Making the Most of its Melting Glaciers

A recent New York Times interactive “Where Glaciers Melt Away, Switzerland Sees Opportunity,” takes readers to the Swiss Alps for a visually stimulating tour of the country’s innovations around glacier melt, from footbridges spanning glacial valleys to hydropower innovations.

A cable and plank footbridge spans what was the Trift Glacier, 300 feet above the water (Source: Flickr/ThisisBossi).

The Tibetan Snowcock Is Caught On Camera

A study on the little-known high-altitude bird in the pheasant family, the Tibetan Snowcock. The study uses reports on images from camera traps to describe its behavior. It also describes the bird’s preference for higher elevation, living close to glaciers and the snow line.

“Global climate change has had significant effects on animal distribution and population dynamics in mid-latitude alpine areas, but we know little about the basic ecology of high-altitude species due to the difficulties of conducting field research in the harsh climate and habitat present at high elevations. The Tibetan Snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus) is a little-known phasianid distributing in alpine areas at extremely high elevations in the mountains surrounding the Tibetan Plateau. Estimating the species occupancy rate and discussing the factors affecting its distribution based on infrared-triggered camera techniques would provide both a baseline to measure the influence of global warming and valuable information on its conservation and ecology.”

File:Tibetan Snowcock near Luza while going Macheramo towards Gokyo lake.jpg
The Tibetan Snowcock (Source: WikiCommons/Sumita Roy Dutta)

Read more on GlacierHub:

Planning Meetings to Focus on Water Management in the Andean Region

North Cascade 2019 Winter Accumulation Assessment

Video of the Week: Can Blankets Protect Swiss Glaciers from Melting?

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Town Evacuates After Part of Swiss Glacier Collapses

On Saturday, September 9, part of the Trift glacier in the Swiss Alps broke off and crashed into a glacier below it. About 220 people of Saas-Grund, a small nearby ski town, evacuated the area as a precaution, said local police spokesman Simon Bumann. The collapsed piece measured approximately 500,000 cubic meters. Local authorities who had been surveilling the glacier found that the glacier’s tongue, a long and narrow extension of ice, was moving at about 130 centimeters per day, according to the Valais canton police.

The village of Saas Grund in the Swiss Alps (Source: Wandervogel/Creative Commons).

It was during the night that the glacier’s movement began to increase. Eventually, more than two-thirds of the glacier’s front edge broke off on Sunday morning, but the debris that hit the glacier below didn’t reach the surrounding inhabited areas. Authorities feared that the broken piece could have triggered an ice avalanche, potentially impacting the town. In August, eight hikers were buried when a rockfall triggered an avalanche in Bondo, Switzerland. The avalanche in Bondo moved about four million cubic meters of mud and debris, which is the equivalent of 4,000 houses, about 500 meters, according to the regional natural hazards office.

Since the evacuation ended in Saas-Grund, residents have been able to return to their homes, and local roads around the glacier have reopened. As a precaution, the area underneath the glacier, including hiking trails, remains closed to walkers.

A view of the Trift glacier that partially collapsed in September (Source: SWIswissinfo.ch/YouTube).

Thanks to Martin Funk, a glaciologist at the technology institute ETH Zurich, the surrounding villages were able to evacuate in time before any damage had been done. Funk had recommended that an expensive radar system be reinstalled just three days prior to the incident to keep an eye on the glacier. Rangers in the Saas-Grund area have monitored the Trift glacier since 2014, when they first noticed that the north face of the Weissmies mountain had broken off. But an earlier radar system that had been installed in the area was later removed due to the high price of its innovative technology. The system is said to have cost authorities around 400 francs a day, or about 417 dollars.

“In 2014, it was found that the Trift glacier in the Weissmies area moves faster than is usual for glaciers in our region. Afterwards, the behavior of the Trift glacier was closely monitored,” said Sandra Schnydrig, head of housing control at the municipality of Saas-Grund, to GlacierHub. “In the years 2015 and 2016, the glacier was permanently monitored with a radar arm and the behavior of the glacier was analyzed. At the beginning of 2017, a more simple measurement method was installed via photo analysis.”

There was no imminent threat until this year, when Funk saw that the glacier had begun moving again in the photos. “On Tuesday, September 5, the photo analysis showed that the Trift glacier started to move faster. Immediately afterwards, it was decided to reinstall the wheel arm measurement and to observe the behavior of the glacier more closely,” said Schnydrig. But when Funk urged authorities to reinstall the radar system, there was none available. The last radar in Switzerland had been sent to Bondo, another valley in the Swiss Alps, which recently suffered damage from an avalanche and mudslide.

Fortunately, on September 7, a radar system was sent from Germany and installed on the Trift glacier. With the proper equipment, Funk was able to predict the imminent collapse. “The degree of monitoring of this glacier is much greater than for most other glaciers in the world,” Jeff Kargel, senior associate research scientist and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, told GlacierHub. “Technology is getting close to a point where satellite-based monitoring can detect the precursory movements of ice and result in semi-automated alerts. We are not far from being able to do that all over the world.”

A map of Saas-Grund in Switzerland (Source: Cities of the World/YouTube).

The glacier will continue to be under constant evaluation. A third of the glacier’s snout remains and is unstable. Bruno Ruppen, president of the commune, was reportedly satisfied with the way the evacuation was carried out for this incident because the glacier did not cause any damage. “It could not have gone better,” he told local reporters.

The village of Saas-Grund was fortunate the recent event didn’t cause damage or casualties, but if the glacier continues to retreat at its current rate, it is assumed that more pieces of ice could break off. “The loss of ice below these remnants and the withdrawal of physical support from these pieces of the glacier means that they are very likely to fracture and slide off, especially during warm weather episodes when the ice melts, water gets in between the ice and the bed, and the whole mass becomes very slippery and weakened by fractures,” Kargel explained. “Therefore, the very common style of climate-change-driven glacier thinning, retreat, and seasonal melting is very often accompanied by this type of ice avalanche.”

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Roundup: Dust, Collapse, and Fire

Dust Distribution in East Asia

From Journal of Meteorological Research: “East Asian dust (EAD) exerts considerable impacts on the energy balance and climate/climate change of the earth system through its influence on solar and terrestrial radiation, cloud properties, and precipitation efficiency. Providing an accurate description of the life cycle and climate effects of EAD is therefore critical to better understanding of climate change and socioeconomic development in East Asia and even worldwide.”

Read more about how dust increases glacial melt here.

A schematic representation of how dust shapes precipitation patterns in Asia and Africa (Source: Journal of Meteorological Research).

 

Swiss Glacier Collapses

From The Washington Post: “Part of a glacier in the Swiss Alps has broken off and tumbled onto a glacier below after some 220 people in a small nearby town were evacuated as a precaution. Authorities ordered a partial evacuation of Saas-Grund on Saturday after radar surveillance of the Trift glacier, above the southern town, showed the glacier’s snout moving at a rate of up to 130 centimeters (51 inches) per day.”

Read more about the Trift Glacier avalanche here.

The town of Saas-Grund was evacuated in anticipation of an avalanche on nearby Trift Glacier (Source: Wandervogel/Wikimedia).

 

Glacier National Park Landmark Burns

From NPR: ” The Sperry Chalet was one of a handful lodges built in the early 1900s by the Great Northern Railway. The Swiss-themed complexes were spaced about a day’s horseback ride apart. Before the Sperry Chalet burned, it and the Granite Park Chalet were the only two left standing. Sperry’s two-story dormitory is considered a complete loss, but the nearby kitchen and dining room may be salvageable. That potential silver lining has social media buzzing with memories of the roasts, pies, fresh coffee and crispy bacon served daily by the chalet’s dedicated kitchen staff.”

Read more about this casualty of the Sprague Fire here.

Sperry Lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Source: National Park Service/Wikimedia).

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