Archive for the 'glaciers' Category

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Between the glacier and the dam: life on the Tibetan plateau

Photo retrieved from: www.chinadialogue.net

“The Tibetan Plateau covers approximately a quarter of China’s land area, spreading out over 2.5 million square kilometres in the west of the country. Home to the largest store of freshwater outside of the poles, it feeds water into Asia’s major rivers which supply water to over a billion people. As a result of anthropogenic climate change, temperatures are rising on the Tibetan Plateau faster than anywhere else in Asia. The effects of these changes are becoming more evident in the form of melting glaciers, intensified weather events, increasing desertification and degraded grasslands.

In the town of Heishui, in northern Sichuan province, the effects of climate change are being felt firsthand by the people who reside in this south-eastern corner of the plateau. The Dagu glacier which sits above the town lies at over 5,000 metres. But it’s quickly retreating due to rising temperatures in the region. Just 50 kilometres downstream, the water run-off from the glacier slows and stagnates behind one of the country’s largest and newest hydropower constructions, the 147-metre high Maoergai Dam.”

Read more: China Dialogue

As the World Warms, the Future of Skiing Looks Bleak

The lodge at Bolivia’s Chacaltaya Glacier. Retrieved from: www.earthfirstnews.com

“As polar bears watch their winter ice recede farther and farther from boggy Arctic shores each year, skiers may notice a similar trend occurring in the high mountain ranges that have long been their wintertime playgrounds. Here, in areas historically buried in many feet of snow each winter, climate change is beginning to unfurl visibly, and for those who dream of moguls and fresh powder, the predictions of climatologists are grim: By 2050, Sierra Nevada winter snowpack may have decreased by as much as 70 percent from average levels of today; in the Rockies, the elevation of full winter snow cover mayincrease from 7,300 feet today to 10,300 feet by the year 2100; in Aspen, the ski season could retreat at both ends by a total of almost two months; and throughout the Western United States, average snow depths could decline by anywhere between 25 and—yep—100 percent.”

Read more: Earth First

Arctic sea ice melts to lowest level on record

Photo retrieved from: www.reuters.com

“The extent of ice probably hit its low point on September 16, when it covered 1.32 million square miles (3.42 million square km) of the Arctic Ocean, the smallest amount since satellite records began 33 years ago.

Changing weather conditions could further shrink the extent, the center said. A final analysis is expected next month.

The record was broken on August 26, when the ice shrank below the record set in 2007. After that, it kept melting for three more weeks, bringing the ice extent – defined by NSIDC as the area covered by at least 15 percent ice – to nearly half of the 1979-2000 average.

“We are now in uncharted territory,” Mark Serreze, the center’s director, said in a statement. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”

The summer ice isn’t just dwindling. It is also thin, relatively fragile seasonal ice instead of the hardier multi-year ice that can better withstand bright sunlight.”

Read more: Reuters

 

Vanishing Arctic Ice Is the Planet’s White Flag of Surrender

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“In 2007, a new record was set for the minimum summer sea ice cover in the Arctic had halved. This furious flag waving attracted attention. That year, the world’s scientists declared the end of any doubt that our addiction to burning fossil fuels was changing the face of the planet. Al Gore expounded his inconvenient truth and the world seemed set to act.

Today, that 2007 record is smashed and the shredded white flag is now flickering rathering than flashing. But the danger is greater than even, even if the alarm signal is frayed.

The last great global ice melt the planet witnessed came 10,000 years ago at the end of a deep ice age. As glaciers retreated, a benign and balmy climate emerged in which the human race has flourished. Our entire civilisation is built on the warm soils left as the ice sheets melted.

This new great melting heralds the polar opposite: the gravest of threats to civilisation. Removing the lid from the pole will release heat equivalent to fast-forwarding human-caused climate change by two decades, say scientists.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Peak Water Surpassed as Patagonian Glaciers Melt in a Hurry

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“The rapid melting, based on satellite observations, suggests the ice field’s contribution to global sea-level rise has increased by half since the end of the 20th century, jumping from 0.04 millimeters per year to about .07 mm, and accounting for 2 percent of annual sea-level rise since 1998.

The southern and northern Patagonian ice fields are the largest mass of ice in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. The findings spell trouble for other glaciers worldwide, according to the study’s lead author, Cornell University researcher Michael Willis.”

“Patagonia is kind of a poster child for rapidly changing glacier systems,” he said in a statement. The region, he added, “is supplying water to sea-level at a big rate compared to its size.”

Read more: Alternet

Melting Glaciers May Worsen Northwest China’s Water Woes

Photo retrieved from: www.yale.edu

“During four of the last 10 summers, more than half of the 800-mile Tarim River in northwestern China ran dry. Landscape ecologist Niels Thevs has been there conducting fieldwork and has watched water shortages take the heaviest toll on downstream cotton farmers, who irrigate six or seven times during the growing cycle. “One could really feel the struggle for water,” Thevs recalls. “People did everything they could.” But their typical strategy — drilling wells — only further depleted the basin’s groundwater reserves.

With its population growing and agricultural activity intensifying, the Tarim River basin, the largest arid inland basin in China, is facing threats to water security that also are confronting the nearby nations of Central Asia. But on the horizon is another challenge that will only exacerbate the region’s growing water woes: melting glaciers. The Tarim basin receives about 40 percent of its water from glacial runoff, and although glacial melting may initially provide the basin with more water, scientists say the inevitable shrinking of many glaciers will likely reduce total available water. That could leave downstream farmers and communities high and dry.”

Read more: Yale Environment 360

Massive Iceberg Breaks Off Greenland Glacier

Petermann Glacier. Retrieved from: www.aljazeera.com

“A massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken away from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, scientists have said.

“The floating extension (of the glacier) is breaking apart,” Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement on Thursday.

“It is not a collapse, but it is certainly a significant event.”

This is the second time in less than two years that the Petermann Glacier has calved a monstrous ice island. In 2010, it unleashed another massive ice chunk into the sea.

The latest break was observed by NASA’s Aqua satellite, which passes over the North Pole several times a day, and was noted by Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service.

“At this time of year, we’re always watching the Petermann Glacier,” Wohlleben said, because it can spawn big icebergs that invade North Atlantic shipping lanes or imperil oil platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.”

Read more: Aljazeera

Race To Map Africa’s Forgotten Glaciers Before They Melt Away

Rwenzori’s summits in Uganda. Retrieved from: www.guardian.co.uk

“Ptolemy thought they were the source of the Nile and called them the Mountains of the Moon because of the perpetual mists that covered them; Stanley claimed to be the first non-African to see their icecap; and the many thousands of subsistence farmers who today live on the slopes of the fabled Rwenzori mountains in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo fear that warming temperatures are devastating their harvests.

While 20,000 people a year scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, just a handful of trekkers tackle the lower, 5,100m Rwenzori summits and witness the spectacular plant forms that grow in some of the wettest conditions on Earth. The result is that little is known about the condition of the many tropical glaciers that descend off the three peaks of mounts Baker, Speke and Africa’s third highest peak, Mount Stanley.

But last month, a micro-expedition led by London-based Danish photographer Klaus Thymann returned from Uganda with the best evidence yet that the 43 glaciers found and named in 1906 are still mostly there, but are in dire condition and can be expected to disappear in a decade or two.”

Read more: The Observer

 

Fresh water demand driving sea-level rise faster than glacier melt

Photo retrieved from: www.guardian.co.uk

“Trillions of tonnes of water have been pumped up from deep underground reservoirs in every part of the world and then channelled into fields and pipes to keep communities fed and watered. The water then flows into the oceans, but far more quickly than the ancient aquifers are replenished by rains. The global tide would be rising even more quickly but for the fact that man-made reservoirs have, until now, held back the flow by storing huge amounts of water on land.

“The water being taken from deep wells is geologically old – there is no replenishment and so it is a one way transfer into the ocean,” said sea level expert Prof Robert Nicholls, at the University of Southampton. “In the long run, I would still be more concerned about the impact of climate change, but this work shows that even if we stabilise the climate, we might still get sea level rise due to how we use water.” He said the sea level would rise 10 metres or more if all the world’s groundwater was pumped out, though he said removing every drop was unlikely because some aquifers contain salt water. The sea level is predicted to rise by 30-100cm by 2100, putting many coasts at risk, by increasing the number of storm surges that swamp cities.”

Read more: Guardian

 

Melt Or Grow? Fate Of Himalayan Glaciers Unknown

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“The Himalayas are sometimes called the world’s “third pole” because they are covered with thousands of glaciers. Water from those glaciers helps feed some of the world’s most important rivers, including the Ganges and the Indus. And as those glaciers melt, they will contribute to rising sea levels.

So a lot is at stake in understanding these glaciers and how they will respond in a warming world. Researchers writing in the latest issue of Science magazine make it clear they are still struggling at that task.

Just a few years ago, it seemed that the Himalayas were on the brink of disaster. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made alarming claims about the fate of all that ice. You can almost see Jeffrey Kargel at the University of Arizona cringe as he describes it.

“One page had the most egregious errors you could imagine, just one after another, including the claim that the glaciers would disappear by 2035,” he says.

But the claim was dead wrong. The error put a lot of egg on the face of the IPCC. But it also sent glacier scientists scrambling. They knew very little about the state and the fate of those glaciers, even the basics.”

Read more: NPR