Cryospheric Sciences

Climate Change & Cryosphere

On snowmelt, water security, and a warming climate – Why solution-oriented research matters, now more than ever

1 April 2015: for the first time on record, the chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys, Frank Gehrke, had no snow to measure at the Phillips Snow Course near Lake Tahoe at the end of the winter. This was in some ways unsurprising, as California had been in a drought since 2012. But drought was nothing new in the state, and this was the first time on record that snow was completely absent ...[Read More]

Climate Change and Cryosphere – What can we learn from the smallest, most vulnerable glaciers in the Ötztal Alps?

The Alps were the first mountains to be studied from a glaciological point of view in the 19th century and they host some of the most studied glaciers of Earth. Some of them are found in the Central Alps and in particular, the Ötztal Alps. Just to cite the most known and largest glaciers in this Alpine sector, we can mention Hintereisferner or Vernagtferner. But in the Ötztal Alps you can also fin ...[Read More]

Rain or snow? Answering the question with citizen scientists

As a New Englander interested in weather, I was used to a fairly intuitive air temperature split between rain and snow. Once air temperature got slightly above freezing, I’d commonly see rainfall with snowfall more frequent below freezing. Then something happened when I moved to the Intermountain West of the United States. Instead of seeing rain when it was slightly above freezing, I’d see snow at ...[Read More]

Time To Reflect

Albedo or albedon’t? One possible solution to global warming is to turn everything white to increase the planet’s albedo, i.e. how reflective it is (see, for example, this website). A higher albedo would be one way to reduce global warming, by reducing the amount of incoming shortwave solar radiation absorbed by the planet’s surface, which is then re-emitted as longwave radiation that ...[Read More]

Seafloor secrets: traces of the past Patagonian ice sheet

Today’s Patagonian ice caps are confined to the high-altitude Andean Mountain range as the Northern and Southern Patagonia ice fields, and they are rapidly melting. The southern part of the Patagonian ice cap drains partially through fast-flowing ice streams into the fjords of Patagonia. Glaciers in this region have been losing ice at accelerating rates by large calving events, due to rising globa ...[Read More]

How do the ups and downs of the solid Earth influence the future of the West Antarctic ice sheet?

When the Antarctic ice sheet loses mass, the pressure it exerts on the underlying solid Earth decreases. As the ice sheet becomes less heavy, the Earth’s surface is not pressed down as much as before and therefore slowly rises up. In some regions, this rebound process is much faster than previously thought and could stabilise areas of unstable ice retreat. How come? Keep reading to figure it out… ...[Read More]

The physical and social changes facing the mountainous populations of the Karakoram Range

The physical and social changes facing the mountainous populations of the Karakoram Range

As a child, Shakir remembers long extreme winters with heavy snowfall and dry blistering winds, where it was hard to play outside. He grew up in a village named Gulmit, located at an elevation of 2500 m, surrounded by the high snow caped mountains in the Karakoram Range in northern Pakistan. That was 30 years ago, when climate change was still not a cause of concern for the local people. Today, in ...[Read More]

Climate Change & Cryosphere – A brief history of A68, the world’s largest iceberg

In July 2017, the world’s largest iceberg known as A68 calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, located in the western Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Since then, A68 has lost two chunks of ice, A68-B and A68-C, but still remains a giant after more than 3 years. How did it feel to be the greatest, A68? Being the greatest With a length of 175 km and being about 50 km wide, this giant iceberg also appropriately ...[Read More]

Climatic drivers of permafrost mounds in North American peatlands

Climatic drivers of permafrost mounds in North American peatlands

Permafrost, or perennially frozen, peatlands are among the world’s largest terrestrial carbon stores and are particularly threatened by warming climates. Understanding how modern climate controls the distribution of permafrost peatlands is crucial for making confident predictions of their past and future extents. What are permafrost peatlands? Peatlands are wetlands that develop where cold, wet co ...[Read More]

Climate Change & Cryosphere – How the Chalaati Glacier (Georgian Caucasus) changed since the Little Ice Age

Chalaati Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the Greater Caucasus and has undergone expansive mass loss. In this week’s blog post, Levan Tielidze tells us about Chalaati Glacier variations in the past centuries. His recent study was conducted based on surface exposure dating technique, dendrochronology (tree ring analysis), lichenometry, and satellite imagery. They found out that the Chalaat ...[Read More]