Sub-debris melt model intercomparison

Task one of the IACS Working Group on Debris Covered Glaciers is a melt model intercomparison. I just wanted to give a shout out to all the participants who have contributed data to the study, and especially to Adria Bach who works at WSL in Francesca Pelliciottis research group, as she heroically checked and compiled all the data for public sharing for the modelling effort. Thanks to you all. The model intercomparison data (restricted to experiment participants for now) and documents are online here. If you are interested in participating – even at this late data – with a new melt model then do let us know.

Adria also produced this figure that shows the range of environments we are capturing in our model intercomparison. The data shown is for a single ablation season so the site conditions can be compared even though the data provided for each site covers periods of varying length.

Its pretty good really I think – we should be able to see how the models we are comparing perform in a range of environments in which debris-covered glaciers are found now! Pertty cool – I’m looking forward to seeing and comparing all the first model results at the IUGG in Montreal next month!


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Class infographics on components of the cryosphere

In our class this semester we did an exercise where groups of students created an infographic summarizing what are the known observations of various components of the cryosphere. The data was all taken from the IPCC AR5, which is getting somewhat dated now, but the main messages of the observed change still hold, as do the principles of distilling the information and presenting in a memorable way.

The students did a good job of pulling together graphical summaries and presenting them to the class. Here is the very professional and impressive example from the team looking at Arctic sea ice:

Credit: N Gampierakis, P. Schmitt and C. Winter, 2019.

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Mapping supraglacial debris cover

A warming Earth causes the volume of mountain glaciers and their extent to decline globally for decades. At the same time, the cover of many glaciers with debris changes. However, this debris coverage has been rarely recorded so far. A study led by  Dirk Scherler of the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and two colleagues from Switzerland – one of them employed by Google – now shows a possibility to detect the extent of debris on mountain glaciers globally and automatically via satellite monitoring.

Quoting from the GFZ news website: “In their work, the scientists used the cloud computing platform “Google Earth Engine”. This is a web-based development environment and database of satellite imagery from forty years of remote sensing that is freely accessible to researchers. The images for the study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters came from the satellites Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2 and have a spatial resolution of 30 by 30 and 10 by 10 meters respectively per pixel. The scientists compared the images from space with an electronic glacier catalog, the Randolph Glacier Inventory, to determine the debris coverage. For this they have developed an automatic method that makes pixel-by-pixel comparisons across the globe. “Our approach, in principle, allows rapid mapping of changes in debris coverage for any period for which satellite imagery is available,” says Dirk Scherler.”

“According to this, 4.4 percent of the glacier surface in mountains is covered with rubble (the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic were not included in the study). The distribution is uneven: Towards the poles, the debris coverage decreases as the landscape here is rather flat. In steep mountain regions, such as the Himalayas, there is more debris on the glaciers. Moreover, the study showed that the coverage ratio is higher for smaller glaciers than for larger ones. With global glaciers shrinking, the percentage of debris coverage is expected to increase, making it more important to monitor debris coverage.”

Here is an overview of the places in the world where surface debris affects the glaciers:

Scherler, D., Wulf, H., Gorelick, N. (2018): Global Assessment of Supraglacial Debris Cover Extents. Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029 / 2018GL080158.

This data is now provided as an add-on the Randolph Glacier Inventory v6.0 and you can get the dataset from the GFZ. This method and dataset will be pretty useful for including the effects of debris in global glacier models and also for our IACS working group on Debris Covered Glaciers.

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How do you feel about climate change?

A long while ago (18 September 2016) I wrote a contribution to the ‘Is this how you feel?‘ project which gives a space for scientists to say how they feel about climate change. From their website:

“Climate change is a complex and intimidating threat. You can’t see it when you look out your bedroom window. Its impacts are often not immediately noticeable, nor are the benefits of acting against it.
Luckily there are a large group of passionate individuals who have dedicated their lives to studying climate change. These people write complex research papers, unpacking every aspect of climate change, analysing it thoroughly and clinically.  They understand the numbers, the facts and the figures. They know what is causing it, what the impacts will be and how we can minimise these impacts.

I’m not a famous scientist so my contribution is not featured on the website. Its also much more pessimistic than most of the featured contributions, as I am worried those of us in wealthy and safer places will behave inhumanely to those bearing the brunt of the climate change impacts, and instead of helping, will desperately self-preserve our advantages. I think that will have deep psychological consequences. Anyway, as even my ‘best’ handwriting is illegible, so I transcribed my contribution here:

How do I feel about climate change?

I feel sad, ashamed, fearful, and often frustrated and helpless.

I see current climate change as part of a wider human caused environmental depreciation and it saddens me how we behave towards the natural environment. I’m ashamed about what we are knowingly doing to our planet. Especially when, for me, and I imagine many others, being in the natural environment is one of the greatest sources of solace and joy to be had.

I live in a small home, use green energy, turn off the lights, share my car and prefer my bike over it, eat meat only rarely, avoid packaging if I can, and so on. But my whole lifestyle is still a kind of aberration of the natural systems we evolved in. Am I doing enough? Enough to legitimately ask others to do something too? Probably not.

I’m afraid we will wait too long to make the wholesale changes in attitudes and governance needed to improve our situation. As a result, I fear for the future of people in countries too poor to bring effective adaptation strategies to bear. I also fear that those of us in wealthier countries might not respond with the requisite humanity to help – what would that mean for us?

Its frustrating that we seem to be in possession of all the understanding ad solutions to change our destructive ways and deal with the consequences of them, but there is a collective lack of will to do it. I feel helpless becasue I feel poorly equipped to stir people or our leaders to force change.

But I try, will continue to try, and I hope you will too.

My progress since September 2016 has unfortunately not always been forward:

  • I no longer live in a tiny studio apartment with one other person, but a fairly large flat with one other person
  • I replaced my van with a more fuel efficient car, which I still share
  • I am more stringent with by avoidance of packaging and single use items – this is now much reduced
  • I was and continue to be a pretty minimal consumer – my electronics are all ancient, as are my clothes
  • I still have to look up how to spell aberration
  • I’ve decided I’m definitely not doing enough
  • Unfortunately I’m not sure how to turn that decision into action
  • I successfully minimised my travel for 2 years, but my plans for 2019 look unforgivable even with carbon offsetting
  • Report card: Must try harder

You can add your feelings on climate change by doing this:

1. Handwrite your feelings on climate change
2. Take a photo of it on your phone
3. Tweet your photo to @ITHYF_Letters

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Girls on Ice Austria

A team of us are currently trying to set up an Austrian edition of the Inspiring Girls ExpeditionsGirls on Ice” learning and mentoring program. So whats it all about?

Well, Inspiring Girls Expeditions has a long history of taking small groups of girls into a challenging and inspiring mountain environment with the aim to allow the young women to develop their full potential as scientists, creative thinkers and citizens. The program targets girls who – for a broad range of reasons – might need a boost and an inspirational experience at this point in their lives. We offer guidance for critical thinking, problem solving and facing new challenges alone and as a team. This proves arms the girls with confidence, experience and personal/professional growth opportunities that will last well after the program is over. The girls are led into the natural environment to pursue activities covering scientific, mountain and artistic skills, led by professional female mentors trained in these fields.

Here is our German visual summary of the program …Last year I attended a training program  hosted by the founder of the program and others with profound experience of the program. It was the first time I’d actually participated in a strictly dgener specific program, and it covered, listening, meontoring, lesson, planning, praczticalities, risk assessment and so much more. Dr Emma Smith wrote a blog about it for the EGU which includes a photos of all the participants.

There is lots to organize and lots of fundraising and grant applications to do to gain support for this plan so wish us luck in our endeavour!

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