Within her PhD, Fanny Brun applied the freely available NASA Ames Stereo Pipeline (ASP) tool to ASTER imagery to produce repeat digital elevation models (DEM) of the glacier surfaces across High Mountain Asia (HMA), from which, by subtracting one DEM from another, the volume of glacier change over time can be calculated. This was then used to provide a record of spatially resolved historical geodetic mass balance for the glaciers of High Mountain Asia (HMA).
This NASA Ames Stereo Pipeline (ASP) tool is pretty awesome as far as I can tell, open source, free, and offering a very powerful, repeatable, standardized methodology for generating DEMs from optical satellite imagery of our planet.
Applying this strategy allowed computation of the mass balance of 92% of the glacierized area in HMA, over a longer period (2000 to 2016) than other satellite data sources (e.g. GRACE and IceSat) allowed, and also avoided issues of these alternative satellite data sources, such as difficulties separating the ice signal from water storage in the gravity data, and poor spatial coverage of IceSat at the latitude of HMA. The key findings of this work were:
- This provided the first consistent record of glacier mass balance for the whole HMA region, allowing intercomparisons between climatic zones and constituent mountain ranges
- Specifically, the results shed light on the Nyainqentanglha and Pamir glacier mass changes, for which contradictory estimates exist in the literature.
- Considering only the basins that drain out of HMA, the results of this study showed a mass loss of 14.6 (± 3.1) Gt yr-1 for the period 2000 to 2016, which is very different from the value of 46 (± 3.1) Gt yr-1 provided by previous workers and commonly used in sea level budget studies.
Map of glacier mean elevation change 2000-2016 across High Mountain Asia on a 1° × 1° grid.
Recently this technique was reapplied to the glaciers of continental Western North America (WNA) in a study led by Brian Menounous. The paper was nicely summarized in a blog by co-author Joe Shea here. The key points of the study highlighted in the blog post are:
- When averaged over all regions, WNA glaciers lost 6.5 (± 2.3) Gt yr-1 during the period 2000
There is short-term variability imposed on the long-term trend of glacier mass loss. Big increases (x6) in glacier mass loss were observed between the first and second half of the study in the southern and central Coast Mountains of BC, which contain the largest volumes of ice in this region.
- A southward shift in the mean position of the jet stream is probably the main factor in #2: this reduced winter precipitation in the central and southern Coast Mountains, and led to more negative mass balances in the last 10 years. Conversely, the jet stream shift produced neutral conditions (and even slight mass gains) in areas that started to get more winter precipitation: the south Cascades and Glacier National Park.
Gridded rates of glacier elevation change (2000-2018) for western North America: early (left), late (middle), and full (right) periods. Circle size is total glacier area in each 1×1 degree grid cell.
I guess the scientists involved in these studies will continue to apply this powerful method to other glaciated continents in the coming years to provide more large scale and consistent records of historical glacier change that can be used to provide insights to help us better understand future glacier behavior.
- Shean, D. E., Alexandrov, O., Moratto, Z. M., Smith, B. E., Joughin, I. R., Porter, C. and Morin, P. (2016) An automated, open-source pipeline for mass production of digital elevation models (DEMs) from very-high-resolution commercial stereo satellite imagery, ISPRS J. Photogramm. Remote Sens., 116, 101–117, doi:10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2016.03.012.
- Brun, F., Berthier, E., Wagnon, P., Kääb, A., & Treichler, D. (2017). A spatially resolved estimate of High Mountain Asia glacier mass balances, 2000-2016. Nature Geoscience, 10 (9), 668–673. https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2999
- Menounos, B., Hugonnet, R., Shean, D., Gardner, A., Howat, I., Berthier, E., et al. (2018). Heterogeneous changes in western North American glaciers linked to decadal variability in zonal wind strength. Geophysical Research Letters, 45. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL080942
The Ötztal is a key location for Austrian and German glacier research programs. My colleague Jakob Abermann – now working at the University of Graz once made this great comparison from the summit of Kreuzspitz, and I’m just sharing it with you here as its so striking. It must have been really amazing to see this place back in the days where we really still had glaciers in Austria!
- Upper panel is from 1869: Carl Jordan and Georg Engelhardt
- Lower panel is from 2010: Jakob Abermann
Its almost time for COP24. Whats that you say? COP24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which this year will take place from 2-14 December 2018, in Katowice, Poland.
Its easy to feel daunted by climate change, but the solutions are at hand, so instead, why not try feeling empowered, engaged and part of the fight. Because we do need to fight for this. Indeed, the galvanizing and radical society-wide changes we managed during the world wars might be a model for the kind of speed of change we need now. We made the problem, so we can fix it. We have changed fast before, so we can change things fast now too.
This year Sir David Attenborough will bring the voice of millions of citizens around the world to the UN Climate Change Conference. How will this work? Just make your thoughts known on social media and add the hashtag #TakeYourSeat. David explains it more here:
The campaign will reach its apex with the People’s Seat Address when Sir David Attenborough will address the COP24 plenary with climate change stories gathered from these tagged social media posts from around the world.
The People’s Address will also trigger the launch of the Facebook Messenger ‘ActNow’ Bot on the United Nation’s central Facebook account. ActNow.bot will make it easier than ever before for people to understand what actions they can take personally in the fight against climate change. ActNow.bot will recommend everyday actions – like taking public transport and eating less meat – and track the number of actions to highlight the impact that collective action can make at this critical moment in our planet’s history.
For more information, see our Media Fact Sheet. To help promote the campaign, see also our COP24 digital assets, which are in the public domain.
Come and work with us!
The Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences in Innsbruck (ACINN) invites applications for the following academic positions, starting February 1, 2019, for the duration of three years:
- Postdoctoral Researcher (full time position)
- Doctoral Researcher (75% position)
Both the postdoc and the doctoral candidate will work in the Ice and Climate Group of ACINN in the research project “Snow-cover dynamics and mass balance on mountain glaciers” on Hintereisferner, which is a joint project with the University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and thus financed by both the Austrian FWF and the German DFG . The project focuses on exchange processes in the near snow atmospheric boundary layer and will merge high resolution field observations with modeling. Salaries are according to https://www.fwf.ac.at/en/research-funding/personnel-costs/
To apply successfully for the PostDoc position, you will:
- have a PhD in a field of Earth science, physics, or mathematics with a strong background in fluid dynamics and numerical modeling of the atmosphere and/or glaciers;
- have a publication record in peer-reviewed, international journals;
- be fluent in English (equivalent to CEFR level C1).
To apply successfully for the PhD position, you will:
- have a MSc in a field of Earth science, physics, or mathematics with a background in fluid dynamics or numerical modeling of the atmosphere and/or glaciers;
It will be advantageous for each of the positions if you can demonstrate experience in:
- performing field experiments under high mountain winter conditions;
- analysing observational data from a variety of sources;
- working in a supercomputing environment.
Proficiency in German is not necessary, but may be helpful for everyday life in Innsbruck as well as in the field.
The University of Innsbruck is an equal opportunity employer and aims particularly at increasing the share of female scientists employed in research and teaching. Thus, qualified women are especially encouraged to apply. International applications and those from candidates with a migration background are explicitly appreciated.
Please submit your application, a letter of motivation, CV (with copies of certificates), and contact details of two referees until November 30th, 2018 via E-Mail to: Dekanat-Geowiss@uibk.ac.at
All applications received before November 30th, 2018 will be considered, thereafter review will continue until the position is filled.
Questions regarding the position should be addressed to Dr Tobias Sauter (email@example.com) or Dr Wolfgang Gurgiser (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is less of a blog post and more of a “look at this photo” post. I’m finally sorting through the ton of data collected from Suldenferner this summer and I thought its worth showing this photo taken from the north lateral moraine looking roughly eastward to the to end of the debris covered part of the glacier shown below as it shows a really sharp snowline lying across the debris cover:
It had snowed on the weekend of the 25/26th August, and when we arrived to the glacier on the 27th of August the snowline was cross cutting the glacier.
Looking at it now I am wondering if this snowline tells us where the debris covered ice is – such that the snow lasts a little longer where there is still near sub-surface ice as the ground temperature regime is different and the surface temperatures are likely lower than where the debris is metres thick, thus promoting the slightly longer survival of the snow fall onto that part of the glacier.
The angle of this shot nicely shows that the terrain where the snowcover is lying is also a step higher – highlighting how a dusting of snow can really help with visualizing geomorphological features – though only temporarily: Sunshine on Tuesday quickly removed most of the snow after this photo was taken.
Other causes of the feature shown in this photo could be shadowing by the Konigspitze/Zebru mountains, which could explain both the snowcover and terrain height difference as well. I’ll have to cross check this with maps of solar radiation, surface temperature and debris thickness to resolve which is the cause.
Whatever we call the field campaign we carried out at Hintereisferner this summer it was a cracker! We pulled together a team of specialists to combine:
- large scale terrestrial laser scans of Hintereisferner surface to see how the glacier is surface changed over August (Rudi Sailer from the University of Innsbruck)
- local photogrammetric and wind tower measurements from which we can calculate the surface roughness of the glacier which is an important control on how energy is exchanged between the atmosphere and the glacier (Mark Smith, Josh Chambers, Tom Smith from the University of Leeds)
- direct measurements of multi-level near surface turbulence to measure heat advection from the surrounding valley slope onto the glacier (Rebecca Mott, Max Kehl from KIT/IMK-LFU)
- multi-station monitoring of katabatic (downslope) airflow over the glacier (Iva Stiperski, Alexander Kehl, Lindsey Nicholson, Jordan Mertes from the University of Innsbruck)
- thermal imaging of near surface airflow over small sample sites on the glacier surface (Rebecca Mott, Max Kehl from KIT/IMK-LFU)
Boom! With a lot of effort, and help from our friends, we pulled off something cool on a shoe string budget. Massive thanks are due to all those that helped us: Philipp Vettori, Rainer Diewald, Paul Gruner, Anna Wirbel, Irmi Juen, Matthias Dusch, Michael Kuhn, the University of Lausanne who lent Rebecca several sonic anemometers, Heli Tirol and more …. danke!
The instrumentation consisted of a series of eight automatic weather stations with varying sensors installed on them. 5 of the stations used are MOMAA stations, designed by SensAlpin GmbH in Davos, Switzerland. These consisted of a stable tripod mast, with a 2D sonic anemometer at the top of an adjustable mast, ventilated temperature and humidity measurements and air pressure measurements, logged to a Campbell scientific catalogger and powered by solar panels. We took 5 stations with this basic set up and added sonic anemometers at 1.5 and 3.0m heights to 4 of them. 3 of these were placed in a transect from the edge of the glacier to the center line and the last was placed upglacier along the central flow line above the transect but below a weather station that has been operating seasonally on the glacier since 2014. The 5th and final MOMAA weather station was installed with additional mechanical anemometers at 1.5 and 3.0m height at the terminus of the glacier. In addition to the MOMAA stations and the permanent weather station on the glacier, 2 wind towers were installed and operated at the locations of the photographic plots, and later along the glacier central flow line to monitor katabatic (glacier downslope) winds. Here are the stations and sensors all being tested on the roof of our institute in July:
The stations were running between the 1st and 22nd of August 2018 (with a few minor data gaps when one instrument was found to be faulty, and one of the stations fell over!), and offer a valuable dataset for understanding the micrometeorology of the glacier. Here is one of the stations being installed:
The team from Leeds was funded through an INTERACT Transnational Access Grant, for their project “Glacier Aerodynamic Roughness Estimate” (GLARE). You can read the GLARE team blogs about their trip here: https://arcticresearch.wordpress.com/category/blogs-from-the-field/rough-ice/. The team from KIT was funded through a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) grant, and the team from Innsbruck was funded primarily through an Austrian Science Fund (FWF) grant.
Here is an overview of the weather stations installed and operated during August (in UTM):
The first product of the 6th (AR6) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cycle, the Special Report on 1.5°C (SR1.5) above pre-industrial levels, has been approved by the Governments last week and was published on Monday morning. Yes, that means however much your government allows its members and other sources to deny climate change and its human causes, all the UN member governments (so basically all the countries of the world, aside from those not internationally recognised by all, like Palestine and Kosovo) agree with the statements made in this document. Time to hold them to doing something with this accepted knowledge.
Its an epic achievement to have made this happen in such a tight schedule and I commend all those involved for their intense and hard work on the publication. They fulfilled the governments’ request to show the present state (~1°C above pre-industrial temperature), the impacts within a 1.5°C warmer world and what difference this makes to the 2.0°C warmer world. They had to produce all socio-economic, emission and climate change scenarios from scratch, had to add more details of the latest scientific system understanding in order that the uncertainty ranges of the projections could be reduced sufficiently that the differences between these scenarios can be quantified.
They show that risks for society related to climate change can be reduced by minimising human induced climate change. They also show pathways for staying at 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Their expert opinion is that there is still a way, though the time window within which we need to achieve it is very small; only about 10 years from now. Global emissions would have to be reduced by half as soon as 2030, and brought down close to zero by 2050.
My colleague Prof Georg Kaser, who has been involved with the IPCC for many years now believes this to be the most important IPCC product ever published. Please have a read of the report, look at the headline statements and then consider sharing it, and its findings, widely.
A couple of years ago I spoke with Dr Joe Shea about the possibility and timeliness of setting up a collaborative working group of researchers working on debris covered glaciers, under the auspices of the IACS.
A proposal was duly drafted and submitted as a pre-proposal but changing jobs and commitments meant that the idea mouldered away. While Joe is no longer involved in the leadership, I’m happy to say that in particular the enthusiasm of Drs Dave Rounce and Francesca Pellicciotti, as well as Prof Regine Hock has helped revive the initiative, and now we’ve finally done it!
So we are happy to invite contributions to the efforts of the Working Group whose overall goal is to provide – for the first time – a comparison of (1) debris thickness estimation methods and (2) sub-debris ablation models, in order to advance our understanding of how debris impacts glacier response and improve our ability to incorporate debris cover into larger-scale modeling efforts.
The specific objectives are to:
- compare the available methods of mapping supra-glacial debris thickness, and assess their appropriateness for different applications
- compare the performance of available sub-debris ablation models, and assess their appropriateness for different applications.
- work closely with the debris-covered glaciers community to coordinate knowledge exchange
The working group was announced in the September 2018 IACS newsletter. More information can be found on the working group website, which will be updated with the latest developments. We look forward to supporting a fruitful drive forward in our global understanding of debris covered glacier systems.
We would like to engage as wide a group of scientists as possible in this working group, which will include young and senior scientists from a variety of geographic locations. In order to achieve this in a practical sense, we define two levels or participation: working group members and participants.
Members are expected to contribute to ALL of the following:
- actively contribute to the development of at least one of the two comparison projects, which includes model design, forcing data, and output variables
- produce model results for at least one of the comparison projects
- participate in group workshops (as far as possible)
In addition to members, we also welcome working group participants from a wider sphere of related debris-covered glacier research topics.
Participants are expected to participate in discussions and meetings (if possible) AND contribute to AT LEAST ONE of the following:
- contribute forcing data to one of the comparison projects
- provide data or code to foster knowledge exchange
- contribute services to journal special issues
Recently on a scorching summer day I retreated into the cool and dark of the Austrian Alpenverein (ÖAV) photo archive, with my colleagues Dr Christoph Klug and Dr Jordan Mertes looking for old photos of glaciers for a repeat photo project. The idea is to make repeat photographs in 2018 of some sample glaciers in North and South Tirol and show them as part of the remit of the GLISTT research project, which aims to develop an operational glacier monitoring system for the region, primarily based on high resolution satellite data. Here are Jordan and Christoph amidst all the boxes.
The ÖAV have an amazing collection of terrestrial and airborne photos of the Alps, as well as other mountains and countries and cultures worldwide.
It would be a full time job for someone with expert local knowledge of each local area to catalogue the whole collection, but much has been done. Some boxes of ‘random’ images remain however, piquing my interest.
Though we were looking for glaciers from North Tirol, I realized there’s a number from my main study site of Suldenferner so I’d better go back and have a look at those.
If anyone knows other good sources of old images of glaciers, do get in touch!