Cryospheric Sciences

climate change

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]

Did you know that glacier mass loss affects water resources?

The picture above shows a typical Kyrgyz summer yurt camp, located in the valley of Altyn-Arashan, Kyrgyzstan. The stream you see flowing through comes from the glacier-fed lake of Ala-Kul, the gorgeous turquoise water featured below. The families who live there during summer have done so for generations, and travel up with their herds of horses and cows. The stream provides the water they need fo ...[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]

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]

Did you know… the Andes are so cryo-diverse?

Extending for almost 8,000 km along the west of South America, the Andes are the longest continental mountain range in the world. They portray an impressive richness and diversity of cryospheric features, including: the most substantial extension of tropical glaciers on Earth, one of the highest densities of rock glaciers, the largest glacierized area in the Southern Hemisphere outside Antarctica, ...[Read More]

Does debris cover offset glacier retreat in the Greater Caucasus?

Does debris cover offset glacier retreat in the Greater Caucasus?

In this week’s blog, Levan Tielidze tells us about supra-glacial debris cover change for the Greater Caucasus. His recent study indicates more than a doubling in the area of supra-glacial debris cover for the Elbrus Massif‘s glaciers from 1986 to 2014, the largest glacierized massif in the whole region. Glaciers on the western slope of the Elbrus Massif are affected by avalanches and thus ar ...[Read More]

Climate Change & Cryosphere – The fate of Georgian Glaciers

Last week, we learned about the dramatic fate of the Hochjochferner, which has strongly retreated in the past years due to climate change. It represented just one example amongst many alpine glaciers, which are following a similar path. But the Alps are not the only mountain range in which glaciers are retreating. Another example closeby is the Caucasus region. Its glaciers are also shrinking at a ...[Read More]

Education in glaciology: Witnessing the death of a glacier

Education in glaciology: Witnessing the death of a glacier

The Karthaus summer school on Glaciers and Ice Sheets in the Climate System has a long history of training many generations of PhD students, thus forming professional networks that have lasted throughout their careers. The Karthaus summer school has been described in detail in a previous Cryoblog post. Here we want to focus on the story of a glacier… Hochjochferner, a retreating glacier One ...[Read More]

For Dummies – How do wildfires impact permafrost? [OR.. a story of ice and fire]

Wildfire – like the ones observed in the Northwest Territories, Canada in 2014 (Fig. 1) – is a natural part of permafrost landscapes, but fires are expected to get more frequent and severe as the climate warms. This could accelerate the degradation of permafrost, with negative consequences on the local and global scale! We have a pretty good understanding of how permafrost responds to fire t ...[Read More]