Its always nice to check in with a friendly glacier that you know well, especially when stuck in the office, so below are the available webcams looking at the glaciers that we are particularly interested in checking in with from our research group in Innsbruck.
First, our main monitoring site, the Hintereisferner:
Langenferner, where we have long been involved in monitoring efforts:
From near where Ötzi was found:
Some from the GLISTT project:
And some others from our ZAMG/IGF/Uni Graz colleagues:
I was invited to contribute to a series of Mountain Talks pitched to IFMGA members and organized by IFMGA (Environmental and Sustainable Access Commission), UIAA (Mountain Protection Commission) and GRID-Arendal. It is a great pleasure to have these opportunities to share the latest science with this group of people deeply connected to our glaciated mountain regions.
Here is a short list of resources for those who want to know more about glaciers:
Level 1: Glaciers Online is a fantastic photo glossary with in depth explanations of glacier features and processes: https://www.swisseduc.ch/glaciers/. Definitely something for everyone here. (EN/DE)
Level 2: The Antarctic glaciers educational website is focused on Antarctica but also has a wealth of straightforward explanations of general glacier principles: http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/ This reads quite like an introductory text book on glaciers. (EN)
Level 3: Open Global Glacier Model educational resources (OGGM-Edu) offers interactive web-based applications pitched where you can read some basic background and then explore aspects of glacier behavior with these interactive tools: https://edu.oggm.org/en/latest/index.html. This is more of a deep-dive in case you want to explore the scientific data and models that are actually used in academic publications and global reports such as IPCC. (EN +)
Want to get involved? Here are some ideas:
Hintereisferner in the Austrian Alps descending from Weißkugel (3738m), is one of the better studied glaciers worldwide. Photo credit: Robbie Shone.
I’m lucky enough to be part of the ClimArtLab Project: Evolving Futures by Owning our Mess, which is a collaboration between scientists, artists, and philosophers to create art interventions that can induce behavioral change. Its wonderful to exchange ideas with people from across a broad spectrum of experiences and viewpoints. Check out the website here: https://climartlab.space/
ClimArtLab is funded by StartClim.
The next formal assessment of Austrias climate conditions and mitigation/adaptation strategy is scheduled for release in 2024: https://aar24.ccca.ac.at/. It is a review and assessment of published works relating to climate, climate vulnerability and solutions specific to Austria. Its a super open process, with the structure and focus of the report under discussion now. As stated on the website: The question is what questions need to be answered. I’m very encouraged by the focus on the specifics of how to decarbonize Austrian society and economy.
The last Austrian Assessment Report was released in 2014 and some of the key findings as presented in the Summary Report are:
- In Austria, temperature rose by nearly 2 °C in the period since 1880, compared with a global increase of 0.85 °C. Note that the stronger temperature rise in Austria is partly due to the negative anomaly during 1870-1900 and the strong postive anomaly during the last three decades that together lead to a stronger temperature increase for Austria than on the global scale, as described on the ZAMG HISTALP website.
- Since 1980, global temperatures rose approximately 0.5 °C, compared approximately 1 °C in Austria.
- Over the last 150 years precipitation in the west (southeast) of Austria increased (decreased) by 10-15%.
- In the last 130 years sunshine duration at all Alpine stations increased by about 20%.
- Glaciers are shrinking; for example in Ötztal region the ice area of 144.2 km² in 1969 decreased to 126.6 km² in 1997 and to 116.1 km² by 2006
- In 21st century wetter winters and drier summers are expected, with no trend in annual precipitation.
- In mountainous regions, significant increases in landslides, mudflows, rock falls and other gravitational mass movements are expected.
- It was noted that winter tourism would come under increasing pressure, although that seems perhaps slightly at odds to the projected increases in winter precipitation.
- It was pointed out that Austrian strategies at that point were inadequate to meet the commitments for a global 2°C warming limit.
- The economically available potential of renewable resources within Austria is quantified at approximately 600 PJ. As a comparison, the current final energy consumption is 1 100 PJ per year.
- The achievement of the 2050 targets only appears likely with a paradigm shift in the prevailing consumption and behavior patterns and in the traditional short-term oriented policies and decision-making processes.
In 2012 Austria adopted a national adaptation strategy to cope with climate change. The 2010 Energy Strategy proposed that final energy consumption in 2020 should not exceed that of 2005 (which was the highest point of Austrian greenhouse gas emissions according to World Bank data I saw online). Austria’s 2011 Green Electricity Act stipulates that renewable sources should have generated an additional 10.5 TWh (37.8 PJ) per year up to 2020, but the strategy document here seems to indicate that this was not met, but I find the document quite hard to navigate.
The European Environment Agency data explorer seems to show that:
- 33% of Austrias gross final energy consumption is from renewable sources.
- Since 2003 landuse switched from being a strong to a minor sink of carbon.
- Transport and industry show currently increasing GHG emissions
- We emit 9.22 Tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita, which is a bit more than the EU average (which is strongly skewed by high GHG emissions per capita of Luxembourg, Iceland and Estonia).
Austrian Academy of Sciences Joint Academy Day 2021 is on Thursday 13th March, and I’ll be part of a panel discussion led by John Smol, on Arctic and Alpine Environmental Change. The scope of the panel is described in this summery statement:
Both Arctic and alpine ecosystems have been referred to as the “miners’ canaries of the planet”, meaning that, due to a variety of positive feedback mechanisms, they are often the first to respond to climatic and other environmental changes, and to the greatest degree. Importantly, changes in polar regions affect ecosystems world-wide (e.g. ocean levels). Moreover, melting alpine glaciers result in striking economic, social, and environmental issues, as alpine regions act as “water towers”, supplying downstream populations with water for agriculture, industry, and drinking purposes. However, once the glaciers melt, the water tap is shut. Multiple anthropogenic stressors are rapidly changing these ecosystems, often outpacing our ability to collect data on baseline conditions. Despite the importance of these ecosystems, little long-term monitoring data are available.
In this session, we will explore the following broad questions:
- How have these sentinel ecosystems been affected by human-induced climatic and environmental changes?
- Are these changes reversible?
- What does the future hold?
- What are the ecological and social repercussions of these changes?
Here is a picture of the inimitable Professor John England when I was exploring whalebones on the raised shorelines of Prince Patrick Island with him and Dr Roy Coulthard in summer 2008. This was a fascinating trip, as Prince Patrick Island is the home to caribou, musk ox and foxes, as well as many birds and other smaller creates and the fragile land remains criss-crossed with tire tracks from oil exploration of the 1970s (we added some of our own unfortunately), and the former air base of Mold Bay stands abandoned in the landscape. So a curious combination of remote wilderness, and still the interactions and traces of human activities are unavoidable.