CR
Cryospheric Sciences

Sophie Berger

Sophie Berger is a PhD student of the glaciology unit, at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels Belgium. She is using various remote sensing data and techniques to investigate the dynamics and stability of the ice shelves in Dronning Maud Land (East Antarctica). She tweets as @SoBrgr.

Image of the Week — Looking back at 2016

Image of the Week — Looking back at 2016

Happy New-Yearcorn

I cannot believe that a full year has passed since this very cute pink unicorn wished you a Happy New Year.

Yet, over the past  12 months our blog has attracted more than 16,200 visits.  And the blog analytics show that you, our dear readers, are based not only in Europe but literally all over the world!

With 67 new posts published in only 52 weeks, it’s more than likely that you missed a few interesting ones. Don’t worry, today’s Image Of the Week highlights some of the most exciting content written, edited and published by the whole cryo-team during the year 2016!  

Enjoy and don’t forget to vote in the big EGU Blog competition (see below) !
(Remark
: all the images are linked to their original posts)


Get the most of 2016

Last glaciation in Europe, ~70,000-20,000 years ago [By S. Berger].

The 82 research stations in the Antarctic [By S. Berger].

 

 

 

  • We also launched our new “for dummies” category that aims at explaining complex glaciological concepts in simple terms. The first and most read “for dummies” is all about “Marine Ice sheet instability” and explains why West Antarctica could be destabilised.

Marine Ice Sheet Instability [By D. Docquier].

Three other “for dummies” have been added since then. They unravel the mysteries behind Water Masses, Sea Level and Ice Cores.

  • Drilling an ice core [By the Oldest Ice PhD students]

    Another welcomed novelty of 2016 was the first “ice-hot news” post, about the very exciting quest for the oldest ice in Antarctica. In this post — issued at the same time as the press release —  the 3 PhD students currently involved with the project explain how and where to find their holy grail, i.e. the 1 million year old ice!

The list goes on of course, and I could probably spend hours presenting each of our different posts one by one and explain why every single one of them is terrific. Instead, I have decided to showcase a few more posts with very specific mentions!

 

The oddest place for ice : inside a volcano! [By T. Santagata]

The quirkiest ice phenomenon  : ice balls [By E. Smith].

The most romantic picture : Heart-shaped bubbles for ValentICE’s day [By S. Berger]

The creepiest picture: Blood Falls, Antarctica [By E. Smith]

The funniest post : April Fools “do my ice deceive me” [By S. Berger]

The best incidental synchronisation: The Perito Moreno collapsed the day before our the post went live [By E. Smith]

 

The “do they really do that? ” mention for ballooning the ice [By N. Karlsson]

The best fieldwork fail : Skidoos sinking into the slush [By S. Berger]

The most epic story : Shackleton’s rescue [By E. Smith]

The most puntastic title “A Game of Drones (Part 1: A Debris-Covered Glacier” [By M. Westoby].

The most provocative title : “What an ice hole” [By C. Heuzé]

The soundest post where science is converted to music [By N. Karlsson]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good resolutions for 2017

The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to look back at the previous year, and one of the logical consequences is to come with good resolutions for the coming year.  Thinking of a good resolution and then achieving it can however be tricky.  This is why we have compiled a few resolutions, that YOU dear cryo-followers could easily make 🙂

 Cryoblog stronger in the E(G)U blog competition

To celebrate the excellent display of science writing across all the EGU blogs, a competition has been launched.

Olaf the snowman begs you to vote for “the journey of a snowflake”

From now until Monday 16th January, we invite you, the cryo-readers, to vote for your favourite post of 2016, which should be “journey of a snowflake” (second-to last option). I am obviously being totally objective but if you’re not convinced, the little guy on the right might be more persuasive. If you’re really adventurous, you could also consider clicking on other posts to check what they look like, after having voted for the cryo-one, of course.

Get involved

Hopefully by now:

  1. You are convinced that the cryosphere is amazing and that the EGU cryoblog enables you to seize some of the cryo-awesomeness
  2. You have read and elected the “journey of a snowflake”  as the best post of 2016
  3. You would like to contribute to the blog (because you would like to be part of this great team or simply because you think your sub-field is not represented well enough).

Not to confuse you with a long speech, the image below explains how to get involved. We always welcome contributions from scientists, students and professionals in glaciology, especially when they are at the early stage of their career.

Thank you for following the blog!

PS: this is one of my favourite tweets from the EGU cryospheric division twitter account. What is yours?

Edited by Nanna Karlsson

Image of the Week – Climate Change and the Cryosphere

Image of the Week – Climate Change and the Cryosphere

While the first week of COP22 – the climate talks in Marrakech – is coming to an end, the recent election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States casts doubt over the fate of the Paris Agreement and more generally the global fight against climate change.

In this new political context, we must not forget about the scientific evidence of climate change! Our figure of the week, today summarises how climate change affects the cryosphere, as exposed in the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013, chapter 4)


Observed changes in the cryosphere

Glaciers (excluding Greenland and Antarctica)

  • Glaciers are the component of the cryosphere that currently contributes the most to sea-level rise.
  • Their sea-level contribution has increased since the 1960s. Glaciers around the world contributed to the sea-level rise from 0.76 mm/yr (during the 1993-2009 period) to 0.83 mm/yr (over the 2005-2009 period)

Sea Ice in the Arctic

  • sea-ice extent is declining, with a rate of 3.8% /decade (over the 1979-2012 period)
  • The extent of thick multiyear ice is shrinking faster, with a rate of 13.5%/decade (over the 1979-2012 period)
  • Sea-ice decline sea ice is stronger in summer and autumn
  • On average, sea ice thinned by 1.3 – 2.3 m between 1980 and 2008.

Ice Shelves and ice tongues

  • Ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula have continuously retreated and collapsed
  • Some ice tongue and ice shelves are progressively thinning in Antarctica and Greenland.

Ice Sheets

  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have lost mass and contributed to sea-level rise over the last 20 years
  • Ice loss of major outlet glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland has accelerated, since the 1990s

Permafrost/Frozen Ground

  • Since the early 1980s, permafrost has warmed by up to 2ºC and the active layer – the top layer that thaw in summer and freezes in winter – has thickened by up to 90 cm.
  • Since mid 1970s, the southern limit of permafrost (in the Northern Hemisphere) has been moving north.
  • Since 1930s, the thickness of the seasonal frozen ground has decreased by 32 cm.

Snow cover

  • Snow cover declined between 1967 and 2012 (according to satellite data)
  • Largest decreases in June (53%).

Lake and river ice

  • The freezing duration has shorten : lake and river freeze up later in autumn and ice breaks up sooner in spring
  • delays in autumn freeze-up occur more slowly than advances in spring break-up, though both phenomenons have accelerated in the Northern Hemisphere

Further reading

How much can President Trump impact climate change?

What Trump can—and can’t—do all by himself on climate | Science

US election: Climate scientists react to Donald Trump’s victory  | Carbon Brief

Which Trump will govern, the showman or the negotiator? | Climate Home

GeoPolicy: What will a Trump presidency mean for climate change? | Geolog

Previous posts about IPCC reports

Image of the Week — Ice Sheets and Sea Level Rise

Image of the Week —  Changes in Snow Cover

Image of the Week — Atmospheric CO2 from ice cores

Image of the Week — Ice Sheets in the Climate

Edited by Emma Smith

Image of the Week — ice tsunamis !

Image of the Week — ice tsunamis !

Tsunami is a word that became world famous after the so-called Christmas tsunami in 2004, when enormous waves hit the shores around the Indian Ocean with disastrous consequences for countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Somalia and many others.

But did you know that tsunamis can be icy?

An ice tsunami is one of the many names associated with ice shoves (or ivu, shore ice override, ice pile-up, ice ride-up). This rare but impressing phenomenon happens when strong winds rapidly push slabs of sea/lake ice towards the shore.

  • Once on shore, the ice shoves can ride up and advance up to a few hundreds metres inland as a large but thinner sheet of ice (Mahoney et al, 2004; Whiteman, 2011)

  • Alternatively, the ice slabs can also pile up, forming a big ridge on the beach that can rise up to 200m high (Mahoney et al, 2004; Whiteman, 2011).

 

Conditions to get an ice shove

  1. Partial thaw: Ice shoves can only happen when the ice has started to melt but has not completely disappeared yet.  Spring is therefore the best time of the year to observe such a phenomenon.
  2. Strong winds: Only strong winds in the direction of the shore can push piles of ice ashore.
  3. Gentle slope of the beach: The gentler the slope of the shore, the less it prevents the ice pile to advance inland, and the more it can pile up.

This is a common phenomenon in Northern Canada and in Alaska but as these places are sparsely populated, the damages it causes are often limited.

Modis satellite images of Lake Huron, Michigan before (top) and after (bottom) strong winds broke up the ice on the lake and caused an ice shove on Linwood. [Credit: NASA earth observatory]

Modis satellite images of Lake Huron, Michigan, before (top) and after (bottom) a wind storm broke up the ice on the lake and caused an ice shove on Linwood (NOTE: the resolution of the image is too coarse to display the ice piled up on the shore) . [Credit: NASA earth observatory]

Reference/further reading

Edited by N. Karlsson

Image of the Week — Where do people stay in the “coolest” place on earth?

Image of the Week — Where do people stay in the “coolest” place on earth?

What word would you use to characterise the Antarctic ?

White?
Windy?
Remote?
Empty?
Inhospitable?
Wild?
Preserved?

While all of these are true it may surprise you to find out that the Antarctic is occupied by humans all year round with almost half of its 82 research stations operating 365.25 days a year!

Just a few hours before the launch of the biennial Antarctic meeting held by the Science Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) in Malaysia, we thought it would be perfect timing to check out who is leading research in Antarctica and where…

…but before that let’s have a look first at what makes Antarctica so special!


Antarctica, a very peculiar continent, regulated by the Antarctic treaty

Antarctica is regulated by the Antarctic Treaty that defines this continent as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Environmental Protocol, 1991). This means that since the treaty came into force in 1961:

  • the Antarctic environment is fully protected
  • the land doesn’t not belong to any country because the treaty pauses existing territorial claims in Antarctica, as long as it stays in force
  • Antarctica has been demilitarised and no nuclear tests are allowed
  • International collaboration in the name of progressing scientific research is encouraged, with many countries with greater operational capacity aiding those with little or none to allow them to conduct research.

Who is conducting research in Antarctica and where?

Mc Murdo Station on Ross Island (West Antarctica). The station is operated by the US Antarctic Program and can accommodate up to 1,000 people. [Credit: Gaelen Marsden on Wikimedia Commons]

Mc Murdo Station on Ross Island (West Antarctica). The station is operated by the US Antarctic Program and can accommodate up to 1,000 people. [Credit: Gaelen Marsden on Wikimedia Commons]

The map above shows the 82 permanent research stations dotted across the Antarctic. Among those bases, 40 are operated all year long while the others only host scientific research during the Austral summer (November-February). The location and capacity of these stations also varies considerably from one to another. For instance, the US McMurdo station – the biggest scientific base in Antarctica – is settled on an island and is open all year-ong, accommodating up to 1,000 people during summer. On the contrary, a small seasonal station such as the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station is only open during the summer and can host up to 20 people.

Princess Elisabeth Station, (Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica). This seasonal station is located hundred of kilometers from the

The Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station, (Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica). This station is only open during the austral summer and is located hundreds of kilometres away from from the coast. [Credit: René rober – International Polar Foundation]

The research supported by these scientific stations is very broad and covers topic as diverse as sea level rise, climate change, observation of space, biodiversity, etc… Much of this happens in the austral summer when field parties are able to travel from the research stations into even more remote areas of the continent to conduct experiments and install equipment. However, some science, such as meteorology and weather observations takes place all year round no matter how cold, windy and inhospitable the continent may be for those conducting the research.

This is the case of the two “brave” GPSes of Tweetin ice shelf project, which are installed on an ice shelf and tweet their position and movement all year long (you can follow them on @TweetinIceShelf).

Antarctic (stations) fun facts

  •  1 is the number of station operated by an African country : SANAE IV (South Africa)
  • 13 stations is the maximum for one single country (Argentina)
  • -89.2°C is the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth. It was at an Antarctic Station:  Vostok (Russia)
  • 1904 is the opening date of the oldest station still in activity: Orcadas (Argentina)
  • 2014 is the opening date of the youngest station : Jang Bogo (Republic of Korea)
  • 1,000 people is the maximum number of people that a station can accommodate : Mc Murdo (USA)
  • 4087 m is the elevation of the highest station : Kulun (China)
  • 8 is the number of Pokemon Go currently pinpointed in the Antarctic 😀

Here are the countries with at least one scientific base in Antarctica, does yours belong to this list?

Countries with at least one research station in Antarctica, the colors correspond to the colors of the Antarctic stations in the map above [Credit: adapted by Sophie Berger from Wikimedia Commons LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctican_bases.png]

Countries with at least one research station in Antarctica, the colours correspond to the colours of the Antarctic stations in the map above [Credit: adapted by Sophie Berger from Wikimedia Commons]

Previous blog posts about Antarctic fieldtrip

Edited by Emma Smith

Image of the Week — Arctic porthole, Arctic portal

Image of the Week — Arctic porthole, Arctic portal

No need to be a superhero to momentarily escape your everyday life!
For that you, can just rely on the EGU Cryosphere Blog, which cares for taking you on trips to all sorts of remote and cool places (OK, OK we have to admit that some of these places are indisputably cold 🙂).

The picture of this week was taken through the porthole of a boat in the middle of Isfjorden, one of the largest fjord in Svalbard .

What is Svalbard and why should we care about it?

Svalbard is not only the mythical home of Phillip Pullman’s armoured bears but it also an archipelago (island cluster) north of Norway, in the Arctic circle. 60 % of its surface is covered by glaciers (1615 in total) which hold enough ice to raise global sea level by 19mm. These glaciers are very varied, covering a wide range of different ice dynamic types. For example – you can find tidewater glaciers (terminating at floating ice shelves in the sea), surging glaciers (which experience cycles of rapid speed-up and slow-down) and ice caps (on the Eastern Islands).

Svalbard is a place for adventurous cryospheric fieldwork related on this blog and the subject of much scientific study, but here are a few reason why this place is significant:

  • Enhanced warming is currently occurring in the Arctic as a result of polar amplification.
  • The glaciers and ice caps in Svalbard are currently losing 5 ± 2 Gigatons of ice per year (IPCC, 2013).
  • Despite its very northern latitude (74° to 81° north), the climate in Svalbard is relatively warmer than in other islands at the same latitude. This due to the influence of the warm north Atlantic current that, in the winter, warm Svalbard up to 20°C, compared to its Russian and Canadian Arctic counterparts.

Does anyone live there?

It may surprise you to know that the Svalbard area counts more polar bears (~3500) than people living there (~2,650) ! Being sparsely populated, however, doesn’t prevent the Archipelago from having human activities such as coal mining, tourism and scientific research.


The image comes from imaggeo, what is it?

You like this image of the week? Good news, you are free to re-use it in your presentation and publication because it comes from Imaggeo, the EGU open access image repository.

(Edited by Emma Smith)

Image of the Week – Mushrooms at zero degrees = hair ice?!

Image of the Week – Mushrooms at zero degrees = hair ice?!

 

When you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise….. hair ice! 

Did you know that there is a type of ice called hair ice? It is shaped like fine, silky hairs and looks like white candy floss. It grows on the rotten branches of broad-leaf trees during humid winter nights when the air temperature drops slightly below 0°C. A 100-year-old theory states that hair ice also needs something else to grow – a fungus – but, until recently, no one had managed to confirm this.

A team of scientists (a physicist, a chemist and a biologist) in Germany and Switzerland have now identified the missing ingredient – the fungus Exidiopsis effusa – after performing a series of experiments (Hofmann et al, 2015).

The biologist, Gisela Preuß, studied samples of hair-ice wood under the microscope and discovered that all of them were home to Exidiopsis effusa. If the fungus was missing or its activity stopped by fungicide or hot water, the hair ice would be missing too. The physicist, Christian Mätzler, studied the physical mechanism that makes hair ice grow in such fine strands. He discovered that the shape of the ice is due to the internal structure (rays) of the wood and growth of the fungus, which together prevent the ice from forming large crystals at the wood surface. The chemist, Diana Hofmann, studied the hair ice itself and identified natural substances produced by the fungus – lignin and tannin – that allow the hair ice to keep its hairy shape for a long time. This collaboration between scientists from different fields really shows the power of putting your heads together!

It took 100 years to confirm the theory because hair ice is rare and hard to spot: it mostly forms during the night, melting when the sun rises.

So…keep an eye out next time you go for an early morning walk in the woods. If you can find hair ice, you are in for a treat!

 


Reference/further reading

 

planet_pressThis is modified version of a “planet press” article written by Bárbara Ferreira and originally published on 22 July 2015 on the EGU website
(Hungarian, Portuguese, Serbian and Spanish versions are also available, why not considering adding a new language to the list? 🙂 )

 

Image of the Week — Glowing Ice

Image of the Week — Glowing Ice

Two weeks ago, the EGU General Assembly was coming to an end in Vienna. With over 16,500 participants, this year’s edition was bigger and more varied than ever (e.g check out this good overview of the science-policy short course, published 2 days ago on geolog). The week was particularly fruitful for the cryospheric sciences and to mark this we have cherry-picked one of the winning picture of the EGU photo contest 2016 as our image of this week. It’s great that an image of the cryosphere is a winner in this competition and we are pleased to see that it isn’t only us that go bananas for pictures of ice!

What do we see?

The beautiful shot shows a stranded block of ice on the shore the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón, south-east Iceland. Ice calves off Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier which flows out from Vatnajökull, the ice cap which makes up the largest ice body of Iceland. Jökulsárlón developed as Breiðamerkurjökull retreated away from the Atlantic ocean (into which it flows) and the lagoon continues to grow in size as the glacier continues to retreat (see image below).

Panorama of the Jökulsárlón glacial lake, Iceland, 2010. [Credit: Ira Goldstein (via wikimedia commons)]

Panorama of the Jökulsárlón glacial lake, Iceland, 2010. [Credit: Ira Goldstein (distibuted via wikimedia commons)]


The image comes from imaggeo, what is it?

You like this image of the week? Good news, you are free to re-use it in your presentation and publication because it comes from Imaggeo, the EGU open access image repository.

(Edited by Emma Smith)

Image Of The Week – Do My Ice Deceive Me?

Image Of The Week – Do My Ice Deceive Me?

A few weeks ago, we focussed our image of the week on very particular parts of Antarctica, which display blue ice at the surface.

Today we would like to put the spotlight on an even more extreme chromatic phenomenon : the Fyndið ísjaki Brandari (should be pronounced “/fɪːntɪð/ˈiːsjacɪ /ˈprantaːrɪ/“, even though a bit of phonetics never hurt anyone, for the sake of simplicity this phenomenon will be referred to as the FIB).

Despite our poor understanding of the FIB, this phenomenon has been recognised since ancient times. According to Icelandic folklore, FIB has been observed in remote regions at the centre of ice sheets and ice caps for many hundreds of years and was originally thought to indicate a unicorn breeding ground. However, recent studies have begun to find a more scientific explanation for this truly wonderful phenomenon.

Dr Joe Kerr, the world specialist of FIB, told us that the presented picture was an exceptional shot because colour changes, known as Layered Ice Extraordinaire (LIE), are aligned with isochronic layers, indicating a time-dependant source for the changes in colour. He even concluded that this specific FIB shows indications of originating from ice which has travelled to Iceland from tropical regions, although more thorough dating (using a new mobile software package known as TINDER) of the layering must take place to confirm this.

On the other hand, Prof Han-Ki Ding, a competitor for the title of FIB world specialist, also inspected the picture and does not agree with his colleague Joe Kerr. Han-Ki Ding, hypothesises that the thick layer of white snow on top of the coloured layers is indicative of ice of a polar origin. He even added that the snow layer that is sagging on the left part of the image provides further evidence. Recordings of a high pitched noise, know as an “ice scream“, were made when the snow collapsed into its current position. Careful analysis showed that in this particular case the collapse emitted a “coo kiedough” ice scream – indicative of ice originating at high latitudes.

Of course we could further discuss the connection between the FIB and unicorn breeding grounds but then our story would not be plausible anymore, and you might realise that today is April Fools Day… Anyway we thank you – the readers – for wasting a few minutes of your time reading this entirely uninformative post and we hope it made you smile in the process 🙂

Edited by  Emma Smith and Nanna Karlsson

Image of the Week – Monitoring icy rivers from space!

Image of the Week – Monitoring icy rivers from space!
Ice and floodwater inundate a town in Alaska because an ice jam formed downstream (credit: U.S. National Park Service on Wikimedia Commons)

Ice and floodwater inundate a town in Alaska because an ice jam formed downstream (credit: U.S. National Park Service)

Why?

When a river freezes over, it changes the amount of water that flows through the river system. River ice affects many of the world’s largest rivers, and in the Northern Hemisphere, approximately 60% of rivers experience significant seasonal effects. The formation and evolution of river ice changes river discharge and is not only of interest to local ice skating enthusiasts. The variations in river discharge can lead to severe situations, such as ice jams/dams (with an accompanying risk of flooding), or issues that affect the management of hydroelectric power plant infrastructures.

How?

Satellite data have a huge potential for river ice monitoring thanks to the capability of imaging large areas. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems are particularly promising as they can acquire data day or night without regard to cloud cover. In this way the extent of river ice can be mapped in great detail. The image of this week was produced applying one specific SAR technique : the polarimetry.

What?

The image of this week is a false color composite with the different polarimetric channels (red = HH, green = HV and blue = VV) of RADARSAT-2 images. The nature of the ground/ice surface will influence the way the waves sent by the radar interact with it and thus the value of the backscattered signal in different polarisation. The pattern on the left image was then introduced in an algorithm to automatically retrieve different types of ice (right image). Recognising ice types from space is an essential step to monitor and then predict processes such as ice dam collapses.

Los_Vistula_river-ice-illustration_typesjpg

Photo-interpretation key of the different types of ice, after Pawłowski et al (2015)

Reference

Pawłowski B., Łoś H., Osińska-Skotak K. (2015) The first approach of ice filling and river ice cover types classification for the lower Vistula River based on satellite SAR data. Monografie Komisji Hydrologicznej PTG ; t. 3, pp. 313-324.

Also check out:

This previous image of the week on SAR polarimetry applied to sea ice

The image of last week about another type of ice dam, at the terminus of a glacier

Image of the Week — Last Glacial Maximum in Europe

Image of the Week — Last Glacial Maximum in Europe

During the last ice age*, ~70,000 to 20,000 years ago, the climate was much colder in Europe.

As a result, the northern part of Europe was fully covered by the Fennoscandian (a.k.a the Scandinavian ) ice sheet, which extended up to the British Isles and some parts of Poland and Germany. In central Europe, the Alps were also almost fully glaciated.

The storage of all this ice on the continent lowered the sea level (seedark green), which substantially reduced the extent of the North Sea.

*This period is referred to as the Weichselian glaciation and the Würm glaciation in Northern Europe and the Alps, respectively.

 

More information

A more complete and accurate dataset (including GIS maps) of Europe during the last glacial maximum is freely available :

Becker, D., Verheul, J., Zickel, M., Willmes, C. (2015): LGM paleoenvironment of Europe – Map. CRC806-Database, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5880/SFB806.15

LGM_Europe_Map_v1

 

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