Open Access-Policy of the University of Innsbruck

I was just at an interesting presentation about University of Innsbruck open access publishing policies in which I learned some new things. Generally, there are two types of open access:

  • Gold – refers to articles in fully accessible open access journals = the best way in my opinion
  • Green – refers to self-archiving generally of the pre- or post-print in repositories = in which the publisher weirdly wishes to prevent re-using of its layout, but not your content
  • Hybrid – refers to subscription journals with open access to individual articles usually when a fee is paid to the publisher or journal by the author, the author’s organization, or the research funder = the way in which publishers reap double payment from the author and the subscriber

The information for our University is here: and the policy is:

The University of Innsbruck expressly supports open access publications and thus the free and sustainable approach to scientific knowledge. As a matter of social responsibility, open access facilitates the transfer of scientific findings into society. Furthermore, free access to scientific and scholarly publications enhances their visibility in the international scientific community and facilitates their long-term archiving and permanent citeability. For these reasons the University of Innsbruck signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.

To this effect, the University of Innsbruck expects its members (in accordance with the University Act of 2002 §94) to deposit already published publications in the institutional repository of the University of Innsbruck – Open Access, after expiration of the adequate waiting periods („green road“). Any new work should be first published directly in open access journals or in the form of open access monographs, if appropriate journals or series with quality assurance procedures (e.g. peer review) can be found („golden road“).

Therefore, the University of Innsbruck expressly recommends to its members to reserve the contractual rights to any form of use of the open access publication, like especially the rights of reproduction and making the publication available online.

Furthermore, the University of Innsbruck advises its members to also free the access to their research data.

The University of Innsbruck assists its members in the realization of these recommendations through relevant information and advice from the coordination centre for open access at the Universitäts- and Landesbibliothek Tirol (University and State Library of Tyrol),

  • the institutional repository of the Universitäts- and Landesbibliothek Tirol (,
  • the university’s publisher innsbruck university press (iup),
  • the infrastructure provided by the iup and the ZID (information technology services of the University of Innsbruck) for the publishing of open access journals,
  • measures to provide research data,
  • a publication fund to finance author charges that may accrue during the publication, as well as
  • the change of journals published by members of the University of Innsbruck to open access. New establishments only receive financial support if published as open access journals with adequate quality assurance procedures.

Publications that were published through open access will from now on be specifically identified in the documentation of research performance.

We are encouraged to upload all student theses to the repository, as well as any of our publications that are not gold access, subject to the restrictions that can be looked up on the SHERPA/romeo database. Funding OA publications can get complicated: sometimes the project funder pays (like the FWF does), the University has a fund but also some publishers issue institutes a number of publication vouchers, and its worth checking if your publication is eligible for these support options. To be honest in my field I feel massively lucky that journals like The Cryosphere (and all the other Copernicus Journals) and Journal of Glaciology are Gold open access.

Other useful links:

And, as a follow up, here is an interesting related article from the Guardian newspaper: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Open Access-Policy of the University of Innsbruck

Zenodo data repository

Many scientific journals now ask for data used and processing computer code or software developed  in the study to be openly shared – which is as it should be. Most university research is publicly funded and therefore should be publicly available.

I always had troubles finding a good place to supply this data if the journal does not have its own means of storing supplementary material along with the journal. However, today it came about that I really had to sit down and find a data repository option that would work for large files and i have settled upon Zenodo. The EC commissioned the OpenAIRE project, to lead open access and open data movements in Europe in support of their nascent Open Data policy by providing a catch-all repository for EC funded research. CERN, an OpenAIRE partner and pioneer in open source, open access and open data, provided this capability and Zenodo was launched in May 2013.

Zenodo seems to really make it easy to upload all sorts and any size of data or other contribution, assign a digital object identifier (used as a permanent reference for this contribution)

For example here Simon Gascoin uploaded Satellite images of the 17 July 2016 Aru Co glacier collapse in Tibet. Below is a GIF animation switching between two of the images uplaoded:

  • Sentinel-2A image of the Aru Co glacier avalanche acquired on 21-Jul-2016 (4 days after the event). RGB composite of bands B4,B3,B2 scaled to bytes between 0 and 0.5 from level 1C product (orthorectified top-of-atmosphere reflectances).
  • Landsat-8 image of the Aru Co area acquired on 24-Jun-2016 (23 days before the event). RGB composite of bands B4,B3,B2 scaled to bytes between 0 and 0.5 from level 1C product (orthorectified top-of-atmosphere reflectances).

The Aru Co glacier collapse was a surprise as it was a huge mass glacier movement of a kind not previously documented. A good description of the event, and a second glacier collapse from the same range a few weeks later can be found here.

I feel like I should have been using this for a long time, and I guess I will start uploading some datasets there in the coming days and weeks.

My first dataset is up there now: Ngozumpa Glacier Gokyo ice cliffs photographic surface model, which is based on photographs taken in April 2016.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Zenodo data repository

How do penitentes change over a summer?

I just noticed that in our paper in which we presented measurements of the changing surface morphology of penitentes on a glacier in Chile, the main figure which was supposed to use transparencies does not in the final production version. So I thought I’d put this version of how it was supposed to look on here:

The two columns show two different, but nearby, sites: A (7.00 m2) and B (2.25 m2).

The top panels show the hypsometry (area-altitude distribution) of the surface over time (colours shifting from greenish to purple over 25 Nov, 11-Dec, 20-Dec, 03-Jan), by plotting the % distribution of surface elevation showing that while the overall surface lowers, its relief (the vertical spread of the hypsometry) increases.

The second panels show that as the surface lowers, and the relief increases, the penitentes steepen.

The third panels show the aspect distribution of the surface, indicating the strong east-west alignment of the penitentes, and also showing a slight rotation of the alignment over time as the path of the sun alters over the course of the summer.


Nicholson, L. I., Petlicki, M., Partan, B. and Macdonell, S.: 3D surface properties of glacier penitentes over an ablation season , measured using a Microsoft Xbox Kinect, The Cryosphere, 10, 1–31, doi:10.5194/tc-2015-207, 2016.

You can download the paper from the publications page or consider searching these blog postings for ‘penitentes’ to get more information on these crazy snow and ice features.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How do penitentes change over a summer?

Magazin Interview St Anton Filmfestival (Deutsch)

Es ist immer interessant und lohnend, über meine Forschung interviewt zu werden, aber es ist schwierig,  die richtige Balance zu finden, wenn man die Wissenschaft kommuniziert, damit jeder die Hauptbotschaft, aber auch die wichtigen Nuancen unseres gegenwärtigen Verständnisses versteht.

Ich wurde vor kurzem für das Magazin des St. Anton Film Festivals interviewt und mir wurde geraten, mich darauf vorzubereiten über den Gletscherwandel in den Alpen zu sprechen. Ich habe  einiges nachgelesenund  einige Gletscheränderungen in Tirol überprüft, aber am Ende war das Gespräch mehr über den Klimawandel und persönliche Meinungen darüber, wie wir damit umgehen können. Also grundsätzlich bin ich stark von dem abgewichen, was ich vorbereitet hatte. Ich glaube, ich hätte in einigen Punkten den Schwerpunkt lieber  ein bisschen anders  gesetzt. Also dachte ich, ich würde es hier mit einigen Kommentaren (in braun) wiedergeben. Das ist also ein massiver blog!

Lindsey, gibt es den Klimawandel wirklich, oder ist er nur von den Chinesen erfunden?
Es kommt darauf an was man mit „Wandel“ meint. Das Klima unseres Planeten hat sich über die Jahrmillionen fortlaufend geändert. Belegt ist jedoch, dass die Menschen seit der Industriellen Revolution das Klima beeinflussen, und zwar durch die Menge an Energie, die in der Atmosphäre angereichert wird. Wir haben aber wiederum die Möglichkeit, diesen anthropogenen Klimawandel zu beeinflussen.

“Klimawandel” ist für Erdwissenschaftler ein Ausdruck, der schwierig zu handhaben ist. Die Frage dreht sich eigentlich um den vom Menschen verursachten Klimawandel. Welcher real ist. Durch die Veränderung der Zusammensetzung unserer Atmosphäre (durch die Verbrennung fossiler Brennstoffe, die Veränderung der Landnutzung usw.) ändern wir die Menge der Sonnenenergie, die sie speichern kann. Das ist einfache Physik und  es ist unbestreitbar, dass menschliche Aktivitäten dies verursachen. Die zusätzliche Energie wird als Wärme in der Luft und im Ozean gespeichert. Was komplizierter zu bestimmen ist,  ist, wie genau sich das gesamte System Planet ändern wird, wenn sich diese Menge an gespeicherter Energie ändert und wo diese Veränderungen zuerst / am stärksten zu spüren sein werden.

Schauen Sie sich diese coole Feature vom NASA Earth Observatory für weitere Informationen und Erklärungen an: Klicken Sie im Index oben rechts durch die 6 Seiten, um einen vollständigen Überblick zu erhalten.

 Warum ist der Klimawandel eigentlich etwas Schlechtes?
Das globale Klima hat sich um 1,5°C in den letzten 200 Jahren erwärmt. Es gibt Forschungen, die belegen, dass ein wärmeres Klima vorteilhaft für einige Teile der Welt wäre. Die negativen Auswirkungen eines wärmeren Klimas überwiegen dennoch und sind primär mit dem Anstieg des Meeresspiegels verbunden. Wenn sich die Ozeane erwärmen, dehnen sie sich aus, das ist einfache Physik. Dazu kommt das weltweite Abschmelzen des Landeises.

Weltweit muss man erwarten, dass die Auswirkungen auf die menschlichen Gesellschaften negativ sein werden, da wir unseren aktuellen Lebensstil entwickelt haben in Anpassung an klimatische Bedingungen, die wir  hinter uns lassen. Schauen Sie als Beispiel dafür auf Joy Plot (benannt nach der Joy Division übrigens) GIF (von Dr Gavin Schmidt via um zu sehen, wie sich die monatlichen globalen Temperaturen (GISTEMP Daten) in den letzten Jahrzehnten verändert haben:

Es gibt viele Veränderungen, die sich aus einem wärmeren Klima ergeben, die die Menschen (und ihre Umwelt) negativ beeinflussen können Es ist meine persönliche Meinung, dass der Meeresspiegelanstieg eines der klarsten Probleme ist, denen wir begegnen müssen: Ich kenne keinen Platz auf der Erde,  der sich durch einen steigenden Meerespiegel für den Menschen verbessert.

Es gibt viele Veränderungen, die sich aus einem wärmeren Klima ergeben, die die Menschen (und ihre Umwelt) negativ beeinflussen können Es ist meine persönliche Meinung, dass der Meeresspiegelanstieg eines der klarsten Probleme ist, denen wir begegnen müssen: Ich kenne keinen Platz auf der Erde,  der sich durch einen steigenden Meerespiegel für den Menschen verbessert.

 Und das betrifft wiederum Millionen von Menschen.
Genau, die meisten Menschen leben in Küstenregionen. Mit dem Jahr 2100 erwarten wir einen Meeresspiegelanstieg um einen Meter, und darauf müssen wir uns vorbereiten. Wenn ein massiver Sturm und die Flut zusammentreffen, kann das große Schäden anrichten. Dazu kommen noch Dürren in vielen Regionen der Welt und ein häufigeres Vorkommen von Extremwettereignissen. Der Klimawandel wird die größte geopolitische und humanitäre Herausforderung für unsere Nachfolgegenerationen sein.

Ich habe das schlecht ausgedrückt. Ich hätte ‘viele’ Menschen sagen sollen, aber ich hatte die Zahlen nicht bereit. Tatsächlich leben 250 Millionen Menschen innerhalb von 5m des heutigen Meeresspiegels. Nicht alle werden vom örtlichen Meeresspiegelanstieg betroffen sein, aber einige Gemeinden werden Überflutungen, Erosion und Sturmfluten erleiden aufgrundeines  Meeresspiegelanstieges von 1 m bis zum Ende des Jahrhunderts. Unsere Gesellschaft muss bereit sein, die am stärksten betroffenen Menschen auf eine humanitäre Art umzusiedeln und mit Verlusten in der Küsteninfrastruktur umzugehen.

 Warum ist Klimawandelforschung überhaupt noch notwendig?
Unsere Fähigkeit, zukünftige Umstände vorherzusagen, ist auf Grund der Datenmenge und -Interpretationsmöglichkeiten im letzten Jahrzehnt sehr viel besser geworden. Wir finden immer wieder neue Dinge oder können bestehende Vorhersagen detaillierter angeben. Dennoch glaube ich, das, was wir jetzt im Moment viel dringender brauchen, ist aktives Handeln – von politischer und persönlicher Seite. Wir wissen ja, dass sich unser Klima ändert und wir wissen, dass wir etwas tun müssen.

Ja, manchmal kann es in der Klimaforschung entmutigend sein. Wissenschaftler haben den Entscheidungsträgern über die IPCC-Berichte (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) eine Vielzahl von State-of-the-Art-Informationen übermittelt, aber trotz des bedeutenden Fortschritts durch die Pariser Vereinbarung, könnte politisches Handeln noch zu langsam sein. Manchmal kann es sich so anfühlen (von kudelka cartoons):

Auch bleiben viele Mitglieder der Öffentlichkeit  skeptisch gegenüber der Zuverlässigkeit der Botschaften des IPCC. Dies bleibt die Verantwortung der Wissenschaftler und der sachkundigen Regierungen, die Beweise für die Botschaften aus dem IPCC-Bericht weiterzugeben, so dass weniger Zeit in öffentlichen Diskussionen vergeudet wird, über Dinge, die wir wissen, dass passieren, Stattdessen kann mehr Zeit und Energie aufgewendet werden um machbare Strategien zu entwickeln zur Minimierung des potenziellen Leidens, das durch den vom Menschen verursachten Klimawandel für uns und unseren Planeten verursacht werden kann..

 Können wir den Klimawandel noch stoppen?
Was die Alpen betrifft, werden wir die Gletscher nicht mehr retten können, die werden in ca. 60 Jahren verschwunden sein. Das ist genauso gewiss wir der Meeresspiegelanstieg. Auch wenn wir unseren CO2-Ausstoß sofort stoppen würden, die Auswirkungen des CO2-Ausstoßes des letzten Jahrhunderts müssten wir trotzdem tragen. Gletscher z. B. brauchen 20-30 Jahre, um auf Veränderungen in der Atmosphäre zu reagieren, und viele andere Systeme ebenso.

Schadensbegrenzung ist möglich, und ich denke, wir sollten dafür sorgen! Aber es ist wahr, dass die Zukunft unserer Gletscher hier in den Alpen ein wenig düster ist, wie ich hier zusammengefasst habe.

 Wir alle wissen, dass wir global gesehen unseren Verbrauch an fossilen Brennstoffen reduzieren müssen. Leichter gesagt als getan – was können wir als Einzelpersonen machen?
Wir können ganz simple Sachen machen, wie z.B. auf Papier- und Plastikbecher verzichten, die eigene Wasserflasche immer wieder auffüllen, Carsharing mit Freunden betreiben, darauf Acht geben, dass man wenig Müll produziert, biologische Lebensmittel und wenig Fleisch kauft. Mit diesen Dingen kann jeder von uns sofort beginnen. Das würde vielleicht auch den Weg zu einem achtsamen Miteinander ebnen, das wir definitiv brauchen werden, wenn die Umweltbedingungen für viele Menschen auf diesem Planeten dramatisch schlechter werden.

Ich möchte nicht sagen, dass keine Papierbecher zu verwenden uns retten wird. Mein Punkt hier ist, dass wir, indem wir eine prinzipientreue, persönliche Haltung einnehmen, wir die Menschen um uns beeinflussendas Gleiche zu tun. Auf diese Weise bereiten wir unsere Gesellschaft vor, gemeinsame Gesetzesänderungen vorzunehmen, die notwendig sind, um das Ausmaß, in dem wir unser Klima weiter verändern werden, wirklich zu ändern.. Ich glaube übrigens, dass wir es schaffen können.

Vielen Dank an das St Anton Film Festival für die Chance, mit ihnen zu sprechen. Danke an die Teilnehmer des Films Guilt Trip, die es für wichtig hielten, die Umwelt  zu beachten in der Planung ihres Abenteurs und in der Produktion ihres Filmes. Vielen Dank auch an Manuela Lehner für die Korrektur meines bisher schrecklichen Deutschen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Magazin Interview St Anton Filmfestival (Deutsch)

Magazine interview St Anton Film Festival (English)

Its always interesting and rewarding to be interviewed about my research, but its difficult to get the balance right in terms of getting the science across so that everyone will understand the main message as well as the important nuances of our current understanding.

I was recently interviewed for the St Anton Film Festival magazine, and was advised to prepare to talk about glacier change in the Alps. I did some preparatory reading and checked some numbers of glacier change in Tirol, but in the end the conversation was more about climate change and personal perspectives on what we can do about it. So basically I went well off track from what I had prepared and I guess I would have wanted the emphasis to be a bit different on some points, so I thought I’d reproduce it here, with some comments (in brown)  … so this is a massive post!

Lindsey, is climate change really happening, or is it something invented by the Chinese?
It all depends on what is meant by “change”.  The climate on our planet has undergone continual change for millions of years.  However, what we can confirm is that, since the industrial revolution, man’s activities have had an effect on our climate, in particular on account of the amount of energy accumulating in the atmosphere.  But it is possible to influence this anthropogenic climate change.

“Climate change” is a tricky expression to work with as an earth scientist. The question is really about man-made climate change. Which is real. By changing the composition of our atmosphere (through burning fossil fuels, changing land use, etc.), we change the amount of the suns incoming energy it can store. This much is simple physics and its incontrovertible that human activities cause this. The extra energy is stored as heat in the air and in the ocean. What is more complicated to know is exactly how the whole planetary system will change as this amount of stored energy changes, and where these changes will be felt first/strongest.

Check out this awesome feature from NASA Earth Observatory for more information and explanations: Click forwards through the 6 pages on the index at the top right to get a full overview.

Why is climate change actually a bad thing?
The global climate has warmed by about 1.5 degrees C in the last 200 years.  Some research confirms that climate warming can benefit certain parts of the world.  Nevertheless, the negative effects of a warmer climate outweigh any benefits and are primarily associated with a rise in sea levels.  When oceans warm up, they expand.  That is simply physics.  On top of that, the ice masses across the world are melting.

Globally it must be expected that the effects on human societies will be negative as we have developed our current lifestyle to fit with climatic conditions that we are moving beyond. As an illustration of this look at Joy plot (named after the Joy Division by the way) GIF (from Dr. Gavin Schmidt via to see how monthly global temperatures (GISTEMP data) have changed over recent decades:

There are many changes resulting from a warmer climate that may negatively affect humans (and their environments), its my personal opinion that sea level rise is one of the clearest problems we must face: I don’t know of a place on earth that will be made better for humans by rising sea levels.

And that in turn affects millions of people?
That’s right.  Most people live in coastal areas.  By 2100, we expect sea levels to have risen by about a metre, and we have to prepare for that.  If a huge storm and a flood coincide, a lot of damage can be caused.  On top of that, many regions of the world are suffering from drought, and extreme weather events are becoming much more common.  Climate change will be the biggest geopolitical and humanitarian challenge for succeeding generations.

I expressed this badly. I should have said ‘lots’ of people live by the coast, but I didn’t have my numbers ready. In fact 250 million people live within 5m of present day sea level. Not all will suffer from local sea level rise but some communities will suffer flooding, erosion and storm surges from a 1m rise in sea level by the end of the century. Our societies will have to be ready and able to relocate the worst affected people in a humanitarian way, as well as deal with any losses to coastal infrastructure.

There is an awesome scientific magazine made primarily for children called Frontiers for Young Minds, which is written by a scientist and edited by children to make sure it covers what they want to know in a way that is clear. Adults and children (11-12 years) alike can read the article in there to find a clear explanation of Why should we worry about sea level change?

Why is climate change research still necessary?
Because of the amount of data we now have and the the various interpretation possibilities, our ability to predict future conditions has improved greatly over the last ten years.  We are always finding out new things or we can be more precise about existing forecasts.  But what I believe we need right now, much more that scientific review/stocktaking, is active engagement – on a political and personal level.  We know that our climate is changing and we know that we have to do something about it.

Yes, sometimes it can be discouraging to work in climate science: scientists have delivered a lot of state-of-the-art information to decision makers via the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports, but despite the significant step forward represented by the Paris agreement, political action may still be too slow. Sometimes it can feel like this (from kudelka cartoons):

Also, many members of the public remain skeptical about the reliability of the messages of the IPCC. This remains the responsibility of scientists and informed governments to pass on the evidence for the messages from the IPCC report so that less time is wasted in public debate discussing what we know is happening, and more time and energy can be devoted to coming up with viable strategies to minimise the potential suffering man-made climate change could cause us and our planet.

Can we still halt climate change?
As far as the Alps are concerned, we won’t be able to save the glaciers.  They will have disappeared about 60 years from now.  Sea levels will certainly rise too.  Even if we were to immediately stop our CO2 emissions, we would still have to bear the effects of the CO2 emissions of the last centuries.  For example, glaciers take about 20-30 years to react to changes in the atmosphere, and the same applies to other systems.

Damage limitation is possible, and I think we should go for it! But its true that the future of our glaciers here in the Alps is a little bleak as I tried to summarize here.

We all know that we have to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels – easier said than done.  What can we, as individuals, do?
We can do simple things, such as stop using paper and plastic cups, refill our own water bottles, car-share with friends, strive to produce less waste, buy organic foods and less meat.  We call all begin with these things straight away.  That could perhaps smooth the way to achieving better cooperation, something we certainly need, if environmental conditions are not to become drastically worse for many people on our planet.

I do not want to say that not using paper cups will save us. My point here is that by taking a principled personal stance, we influence those around us to do the same, and in this way we prepare our society to make collective legislative changes that are needed to really alter the degree to which we will keep on altering our climate. I think we can do it, by the way 🙂

Thanks to the St Anton Film Festival for the chance to speak with them. Thanks to the participants of the movie Guilt Trip, who thought it important enough to consider the environment in how they went about having their adventure and making their film.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Magazine interview St Anton Film Festival (English)

Measure solar radiation with your iphone

Hukseflux are a company that make a range of environmental sensors for laboratories and for outside. For a while now they have made a cool little thing that means you can use the camera of your iphone, with their app to measure the intensity (energy flux density in Wm-2) of the sunshine (shortwave solar radiation).

I’ve used it in some teaching exercises before, but its mostly very cool for outreach activities and letting people see and understand the energetic differences between diffuse and direct sunlight, how the angle of the sunbeam alters the energy received, and the role of reflected sunshine from the surroundings.

Here is the presentation about their app, and if you’re interested then you can download the manual   and have a go yourself.

In recent decades central Europe has experienced higher rates of solar radiation because air quality regulations have meant the air in the lowlands and valleys of central Europe now contains fewer small particles (aerosols) from pollution. Such aerosols can block some of the sunlight reaching the ground, so as they reduce the measured intensity of the sunshine increases. A Swiss study (Philipona and others, 2013) nicely shows that the effects of changing aerosols on the solar radiation and temperature trends can only be seen  at lower elevations as the mountain tops were generally not affected by the aerosols of earlier decades as much as the lowlands were.

Philipona, R. (2013), Greenhouse warming and solar brightening in and around the Alps. Int. J. Climatol., 33: 1530–1537. doi:10.1002/joc.3531

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Measure solar radiation with your iphone

Guilt Trip movie at St Anton Film festival

The 23rd St Anton Film Festival celebrates mountains, people, and adventures between the two. This year kicks off by featuring the activities of some pretty hardcore female adventurers, which is of course of special interest to our own all-female crew preparing to cross Greenland.

The organisers of the film festival like to have a live discussion of each movie, and I’ve been asked to go and speak about the changing state of the ice in the Alps and Greenland on the 24th August, associated with the movie Guilt Trip, which you can read about on the salomonTV website.

The movie, directed and produced by Anthony Bonello and Mike Douglas is about the skiers Chris Rubens, Kalen Thorien, Simon Thomson and Pierre Muller and their aim to ski Mt Forel, which is the second highest peak in Greenland and sits right on the divide between the mountains to the east and the wide open ice sheet to the west.

The only thing greater than this group of skiers’ desire to claim a first ski descent on Greenland’s second highest peak is the size of their carbon footprint to get there. Loaded with guilt, they decide to bring along renowned glaciologist, Alun Hubbard, whose hypothesis, if proven, could rewrite popular projections of global sea-level rise. However, the entire expedition is put in question when they arrive in Greenland and discover their objective is beyond the range of all available aircraft.

Helicopters are expensive in Eastern Greenland and fuel is not unlimited. These guys had to haul their gear on pulkas to get close to their target, and their science is all about the impacts of a melting Greenland icesheet so it’s a freeride ski movie with more in common with our scientific traverse of Greenland than you’d think possible!

Here is the trailer:

 And here is the movie (its 35 minutes)

Movie credits:

Featuring Alun Hubbard, Chris Rubens, Kalen Thorien, Simon Thomson, Pierre Muller
Directed & Produced by Anthony Bonello, Mike Douglas

Executive Producers Bruno Bertrand, Ben Aidan
Narrated & Edited by Anthony Bonello
Cinematography Mike Douglas, Anthony Bonello
Photography Bruno Long
Associate Producer Susie Douglas
Original music by Alex Hackett
Sound design & Mix by Jeff Yellen
Illustration by Jessa Gilbert
Graphics by Blair Richmond

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Guilt Trip movie at St Anton Film festival

Surging and supraglacial debris

Model studies suggest that sudden formation of supraglacial debris cover might cause glaciers to advance, by inhibiting ice melt in the lower reaches and altering the driving stresses if the debris deposit is massive enough (basically the weight of the rockfall deposit forces the ice to flow faster). For example, Vacco and others (2010) used a numerical glacier flow-line model with superimposed rock debris to show that a glacier advance caused by deposition of a rock avalanche on the ice will be followed by stagnation of the advanced ice lobe, producing distributed, hummocky deposits quite different from the single moraine ridges typically dated in paleoclimatic reconstructions. This type of rapid advance is different to periodic fast and slow flow that is characteristic of true ‘surge-type’ glaciers.

The cool thing is though that the surface debris cover shows really nice evidence of former surges at the surface of the glacier. For example, look at this photo of the Susitna Glacier in Alaksa:

I found this image on wikiversity, but its credited to Brian John (The image appears on a website entitled, “Stonehenge and the Ice Age” at, though I suspect it might come from the USGS archives originally.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Surging and supraglacial debris

Studies on Hochjochferner – glaciological mass balance

In our, now completed, hiSNOW project the aim of the research was to compare methods of determining glacier and catchment scale runoff at a range of scales. While scientists and students in the Hydro_Climatology group of the Geography department have worked on running a catchment hydrological model called AMUNDSEN, and colleagues at EURAC have worked on determining the evolution of snow cover and glacier snowlines from satellite data, University of Innsbruck MSc students Hannah Prandtl and Franz Grüsser, working within the Remote Sensing and topographic LiDAR research group, led the charge to compute geodetic mass changes of the glacier from terrestrial laser scanning and Rainer Prinz and myself (though mainly Rainer) measured the mass balance by the traditional glaciological method. You can read about the various methods of determining glacier mass balance in this UNESCO Glossary of Glacier Mass Balance and Related Terms.

Hochjochferner is a  small valley glacier close to the Italian-Austrian border. During the last expanded glacier extent during the Little Ice Age, a long glacier tongue descended the upper Rofental, but glacier recession since then has caused the glacier tongue to be lost and now a number of smaller glaciers are what is left of the disintegrated former Hochjochferner. The most south-easterly of these glaciers hosts the Kurzras ski area – accessed from Italy. The site of our study is the next glacier body to the north-west of the ski area (blue in the figure below).

HJFMap of Hochjochferner, showing the part that is being measured in this study (blue), the ski area (yellow) and the intervening debris-covered ice (orange) as well as the rest of the glacier also known as Hochjochferner (green). The map shows all the locations of stakes measured on this site (6 on the glacier, 2 on the debris-covered ice, and 1 in the lower ski area). It also shows the locations of snow pits excavated to determine snow properties, th locations from which TLS scans were made, and the reflectors used for ground control points in the TLS scans. Figure by Hannah Prandtl.

The hydrological year in this part of the world runs from 01-October until 30-September, so glaciological mass balance for this glacier is calculated over this period, with 01/10/2013-30/09/2014 being termed the mass balance year 2014, or more simply the annual mass balance for 2013/2014. We visit and measure the 6 stakes drilled into the glacier surface and measure the surface height change there as well as determining the density of the surface (fresh snow is less dense than old snow, which is less dense than ice) so that these height changes can be converted into a water equivalent depth change over the year. Then a contour map of the likely pattern of this water equivalent surface change is mapped out by hand using these stake data and photographs from the field to see where the snowline was. The mass change within fixed elevation bands on the glacier is then calculated, summed and divided by the total glacier area to get the specific glacier mass balance.

It turns out that while 2013/14 was a year when a moderate mass was lost (-244 kg m-2 … equivalent to removing a water layer of 24.4cm depth from the whole glacier surface), 2014/15 was a pretty nasty one for this glacier, with much more mass loss occurring (-2030 kg m-2 … equivalent to removing a water layer of 203cm (over 2m!) depth from the whole glacier surface). Here is the map of surface mass change (in units of mm water equivalent depth, which is numerically the same as mass units of kg m-2) for the mass balance year 2013/14 as determined from the glaciological method:

We are currently working on a paper looking at how the accuracy of the contouring used in distributing the point mass balance data affects the end value of glacier mass balance.

Now PhD student Hannah Prandtl has just published a paper on using laser scanning return signals intensity and glacier surface classification schemes to map the changing snow cover over the glacier in detail over a summer ablation season.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Studies on Hochjochferner – glaciological mass balance

Glacier fieldwork guidelines

Summer time is time for glaciologists to get busy on glaciers … in my case its fixing weather stations,  drilling ablation stakes, trying my first dye tracing experiments to see how long it takes meltwater to pass through the glacier we are studying, setting up automatic cameras, some thermal imagery, and hopefully some surveys with unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a., in this case friendly, drones).

Here is me looking puzzled by my weather station on Suldenferner. I’m probably about to lower the sensors to be a little bit closer to the glacier surface.

There are a number of sources of useful information for undertaking glacier fieldwork, aside from having the requisite safety skills to hang around on glaciers a fair bit, while concentrating on other things.

An early document providing background to the modern glaciological fieldwork is “Combined heat, ice and water balances at selected glacier basins: A guide for compilation and assemblage of data for glacier mass balance measurements“, published by UNESCO/IASH in 1970. This was substantially updated and replaced by “A manual for monitoring the mass balance of mountain glaciers” written by G. Kaser, A Fountain and P. Jansson, also published by UNESCO in 2003. There is also the more more recent UNESCO/IACS “Glossary of glacier mass balance and related terms” led by G. Cogley and published in 2011.

An early full textbook on these techniques was written by G. Østrem and M. Brugman in 1991: “Glacier Mass  balance measurements: A manual for field and office work”, and the more recent “Field Techniques in Glaciology and Glacial Geomorphology” by B. Hubbard and N. Glasser, published by Wiley in 1995 expands the scope to many geophysical and geomorphological techniques relevant to glaciologists.

in 2004 the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France produced a Spanish langauge guide specifically aimed at monitoring glaciers in the Tropical Andes, though much of the content is valid for mountain glaciers elsewhere: “Métodos de observación de glaciares en los Andes Troplicales

So there it is, wishing you success and fun out there! Viel Spaß auf den Gletschern! Disfruta tu tiempo en los glaciares!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Glacier fieldwork guidelines