Tag: glaciers

Glacial retreat affects river flows and aquifers

Study tracks underground flows of water from melting ice

Alaska’s Susitna Glacier revealed some of its long, grinding journey when the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite passed overhead on Aug. 27, 2009. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

Glaciers are not only important sources of surface water, they also help recharge  aquifers as they melt. That role in replenishing underground water reservoirs has been quantified in a new study published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The research was done in Alaska, where both scientists and residents are reporting increased river discharges in summer and winter. The changes in flowes have implications on river travel throughout the year and impact sea ice growth and nutrient exports to Arctic Ocean coastal waters. Continue reading “Glacial retreat affects river flows and aquifers”

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Sunday set: Global change

Travel a little, learn a lot

This set includes illustrations for some of my most recent stories in various environmental and climate news publications and if you’re a regular Summit Voice reader who is not on Twitter or Instagram, I’m providing a few links here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how some of Greenlands coastal glaciers already passed passed a climate change tipping point about 20 years ago. Because of the physical processes of snowmelt and runoff, these glaciers are going to disappear even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately. You can read the story here.

For Pacific Standard, I put together an environmental photo essay on bumblebees, some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, especially in mountain regions and also in the far north. Bumblebees are important because they are cold-tolerant, so they’re out and about visiting early blooms while other pollinators are dormant. They’ll also fly long distances to visit a single flower. Without them, some species would go extinct. Check out the photo essay here.

You might have seen the recent Summit Voice story on beach erosion and how it’s going to wash away some world famous surf spots along the California coast, and in other areas where coastal strands are ringed by mountains, but if you missed it, you can see it here.

I also wrote about the annual Austrian glacier report for Deutsche Welle, a great global news organization that really does in-depth environmental and climate reporting. You can visit the DW website here, or follow them on Twitter for a daily feed. And my story on the dwindling glaciers is here.

Finally, in a critical story for Colorado and the rest of the West, I reported on how we are losing the war on wildfires and how we need to change our way of thinking about forests and fires in an era of rapid climate change. The story is online at Pacific Standard.

Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects

A glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss and has been petitioned for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to climate-change-induced habitat loss. (Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS. Public domain.)
A glacier stonefly on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss. Credit: Joe Giersch, USGS.

‘There is nowhere to go because they’re literally at the top of the continent … ‘

Staff Report

The findings of a new 20-year study suggest what already appeared obvious — that certain insects reliant on cold water from glaciers and snowmelt are endangered from global warming. The U.S. Geological Survey research focused on two stonefly species in Montana, and will be used to inform the status review for consideration of protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act .

The scientists found that the meltwater stonefly and western glacier stonefly have a narrow distribution and are restricted to short sections of cold, alpine streams often below glaciers predicted to disappear over the next two decades. Continue reading “Study confirms global warming threat to alpine insects”

Melting Andes glaciers pose risk in Bolivia

Research in the Andes challenges some of the conventional wisdom about glaciers and mountains.
Research in the Andes challenges some of the conventional wisdom about glaciers and mountains.

Water shortages, sudden floods on the climate change menu in South America

Staff Report

Researchers already know that the world’s tropical glaciers are melting fast, but a new study published in The Cryosphere, an European Geosciences Union journal, helps pinpoint some of the potential impacts. The research focused on the Bolivian Andes, where glaciers dwindled by 43 percent in the last 30 years. The melting ice has created lakes that could burst and flood downstream towns, according to lead author Simon Cook a lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.

The glacier meltdown also threatens regional water supplies. The 2.3 million residents of  La Paz and El Alto get about 15 percent of their water supply from glaciers, and double that during the dry season.  One lake in the region has already dried up, according to the authors, who said their study is one of the first to look specifically at recent large-scale glacier change in Bolivia. Continue reading “Melting Andes glaciers pose risk in Bolivia”

Sunday set: Mountain time!

Around the Grossglockner …

Our reporting for the global warming in the Alps project took us to the high country around Austria’s highest peak, the Grossglockner, late last week, where we saw firsthand how the once mighty glaciers have dwindled to remnant shards of ice in the past few decades, with uncertain consequences for ecosystems below. The mountain valleys are still lush green in the Austrian high country, but there are great concerns that the meltdown could affect aquatic life in the streams below the glaciers, not to mention hydropower production, one of Austria’s main sources of renewable energy.

Are Greenland glaciers on the verge of crumbling?

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Some of Greenland’s biggest glaciers may be on the verge of crumbling into the sea, according to new satellite data. @bberwyn photo.

Study tracks rapid retreat of major ice streams

Staff Report

Scientists may not have to wait too much longer to observe firsthand the effects of global warming on Greenland’s ice sheets. One of the largest glaciers in Greenland entered “a phase of accelerated retreat in 2012,” and may be near a climate tipping point, according to new research published in the current issue of Science.

After studying the Zachariae Isstrom, scientists with the University of California, Irvine, said it’s starting to break up.

“North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said Jeremie Mouginot, an assistant researcher with UCI’s department of earth system science. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.” Continue reading “Are Greenland glaciers on the verge of crumbling?”

Morning photo: Southern Iceland

Find you bliss …

On our way to Austria, we took advantage of Iceland Air’s liberal stopover policy and spent a couple of days touring the island’s southern coast in a mini-campervan. It’s coast Highway 1, just like in California, except for the volcanoes, glaciers and lamb-burgers in the roadside truck stops. The glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón has long been on the list, so we bee-lined for it the first day, then took our time heading back to Reykjavik, with stops at hot springs, waterfalls and lava cliffs along the way. More to come, so stay tuned.