Glaciers Falling on Tourists: Yet Another Danger of Climate Change

Glaciers Falling on Tourists: Yet Another Danger of Climate Change

SOURCE: The Atlantic DATE: September 11, 2018 SNIP: In the summer of 1987, a woman visiting Alaska was crushed by a 1,000-pound chunk of ice. According to news reports at the time, Thais Grabenauer, 59, had been taking pictures with her husband at the foot of Exit Glacier, a towering wall of ice that’s one of the most popular attractions in Kenai Fjords National Park. A half-ton piece of the glacier calved off as the couple was snapping, killing Grabenauer and injuring her husband. It was one of those wrong place, wrong time tragedies that seem unlikely to happen again. But in the three decades since Grabenauer’s death, it has happened again—in Alaska and around the rest of the world. In 2009, for instance, two brothers crossed a safety barrier on New Zealand’s Fox Glacier and were buried under a collapsing ice shelf. On a single day last July, two people were killed at separate glaciers in south-central Alaska: A 32-year-old woman was crushed by a collapsing ice ceiling on Byron Glacier, and a 5-year-old boy was hit by a rock falling from Worthington Glacier. Deaths like these remain rare, but they’re also telling cases of a broader trend. In recent years, people have been increasingly flocking to the world’s glaciers. This boom in “glacier tourism” seems to be dually spurred, at least in part, by climate change: For one, people seem eager to glimpse the majestic monuments of ice before they melt away. And as ice sheets disappear, many glaciers are becoming more accessible—and unstable. The result is that places such as Exit Glacier are not only witnessing...
Climate change is melting the French Alps, say mountaineers

Climate change is melting the French Alps, say mountaineers

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 24, 2018 SNIP: “Global climate change has serious and directly observable consequences in high mountains,” says Vincent Neirinck from Mountain Wilderness, a campaign group that works to preserve mountain environments around the world. One of the consequences of climate change is the ongoing retreat of glaciers. “In the Alps, the glacier surfaces have shrunk by half between 1900 and 2012 with a strong acceleration of the melting processes since the 1980s,” says Jacques Mourey, a climber and scientist who is researching the impact of climate change on the mountains above Chamonix. Another key impact of climate change in the mountains is that it is leading to an increase in the number of rockfalls; more than 550 occurred in the Mont Blanc massif alone between 2007 and 2015. The reason, explains Mourey, is that the permafrost that lies within cracks of rocks and cements them together is now melting. “As the permafrost melts, whole sections of rock become destabilised and more prone to collapse.” This is what caused the destruction of the iconic Bonatti pillar, a massive column of rock and popular climbing spot that collapsed in the scorching hot summer of 2005. Significantly, climate change is happening almost twice as fast in high mountains as compared to the rest of the...
Antarctica’s Ice Loss Is Speeding Up, with Sharp Acceleration in Past 5 Years

Antarctica’s Ice Loss Is Speeding Up, with Sharp Acceleration in Past 5 Years

SOURCE: Inside Climate News and Nature DATE: June 13, 2018 SNIP: The most complete assessment to date of Antarctica’s ice sheets confirms that the meltdown accelerated sharply in the past five years, and there is no sign of a slowdown. That means sea level is expected to rise at a rate that will catch some coastal communities unprepared despite persistent warnings, according to the international team of scientists publishing a series of related studies this week in the journal Nature. The scientists found that the rate of ice loss over the past five years had tripled compared to the previous two decades, suggesting an additional 6 inches of sea level rise from Antarctica alone by 2100, on top of the 2 feet already projected from all sources, including Greenland. Between 1992, when detailed satellite measurements started, and 2012, Antarctica lost about 76 billion tons of ice per year. But since 2012, that rate has tripled to about 219 billion tons of ice loss per year, the scientists found. Another study, published June 13 in the journal Science Advances, raises even more concerns about the vulnerability of Antarctic ice to global warming. Data from radar and laser readings of the ice enabled scientists with the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Waterloo to map a vast network of channels in the base of many ice sheets formed by intrusions of warm water. Some are several kilometers wide, said University of Texas at Austin researcher Jamin Greenbaum. They found the channels everywhere they looked, including beneath the ice shelf of the Totten Glacier, in East Antarctica, as well...
Stanford researcher: Interacting Antarctic glaciers may cause faster melt and sea level contributions

Stanford researcher: Interacting Antarctic glaciers may cause faster melt and sea level contributions

SOURCE: Stanford University DATE: January 23, 2018 SNIP: A new study shows that a large and potentially unstable Antarctic glacier may be melting farther inland than previously thought and that this melting could affect the stability of another large glacier nearby – an important finding for understanding and projecting ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise. The findings, by a Stanford-led team of radar engineers and geophysical glaciologists, came from radar data collected at the same locations in 2004, 2012 and 2014, each revealing details of the glaciers miles below the surface. The surveys show that ocean water is reaching beneath the edge of the Pine Island Glacier about 7.5 miles further inland than indicated by previous observations from space. The team also found that the Southwest Tributary of Pine Island Glacier, a deep ice channel between the two glaciers, could trigger or accelerate ice loss in Thwaites Glacier if the observed melting of Pine Island Glacier by warm ocean water continues down the ice channel. This new perspective on the Southwest Tributary shows melting beneath Pine Island may be currently or imminently causing the melting of Thwaites and speeding the rate of sea-level...
Shrinking Mountain Glaciers Are Affecting People Downstream

Shrinking Mountain Glaciers Are Affecting People Downstream

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: January 23, 2018 SNIP: Mountain glaciers around the world, from the Himalayas to the Andes, are shrinking in the face of climate change—and that could pose a major threat to water resources for nearby communities. These mountain glaciers are important resources for human settlements. Glacial runoff, especially during the spring and summer, can provide a critical source of fresh water downstream. But in a new modeling study of 56 glacier drainage basins worldwide, roughly half the studied sites have already reached a kind of tipping point—after which the amount of fresh water that runs off each year begins to decline. “As glaciers recede, water is released from long-term glacial storage,” the researchers note in the paper, which was published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Thus, annual glacier runoff volume typically increases until a maximum is reached, often referred to as ‘peak water.'” After this point is reached, they note, the amount of annual runoff begins to decline again. Now, scientists are increasingly aware that mountain glaciers—like mountain snowpack—are growing more vulnerable to the influence of climate change. Yesterday’s study suggests that total glacier volume across all the investigated basins will decrease by about 43 percent by the year 2100, even if the world takes serious steps to mitigate climate change. Under a more severe “business-as-usual” trajectory, in which greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated into the future, these total declines could be as high as 74...