Posts tagged "temperature"

Researching the belly of Icelandic glaciers

Glaciers are some of the best indicators of climate change. Their existence depends on a fine balance between mass accumulation (usually through snowfall) and mass loss (mainly by ablation or melting). Any small increases in mean annual temperature elicit an amplified response in glaciers and can drastically reduce their mass balance – more ice lost than gained. This is why glaciers are responding so rapidly to rising temperatures. However, it isn’t as simple as that; there are a number of complicating factors that alter how fast or slow glaciers respond, some occurring on a case-by-case basis. For scientists to use glaciers as a robust and reliable...

IPCC special: Future climate phenomena and regional climate change

The latest report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) combines new and better observations with improved models to provide a clearer and more definite picture of humanity’s influence on the climate system, and the paths we can choose for the future. The atmosphere continues to warm, with the last three decades each being warmer than the one before, and all three being warmer than any other decade since reliable observations began in the 1850s. Warming is seen almost everywhere on the Earth’s surface, and many observed changes are unprecedented on scales of decades to millennia. We also now have...

Antarctic expedition to estimate thinning ice sheets

Antarctica might seem like a desolate and inhabitable continent with little to offer other than perhaps the sight of penguins, but it holds the answers to many scientific questions. Simply put, Antarctica is covered by kilometers-thick ice, frozen water which will melt when sufficiently warmed. Sea level around the world is therefore dependent on how fast Antarctica’s ice sheets melt. My research looks at past changes of ice sheet thickness. As a glacier melts and thins, rocks on its flanks become exposed to the atmosphere (specifically cosmic radiation). A technique called surface-exposure-dating is used to estimate when rocks became exposed at the glacier surface, creating...

Changing glaciers in Antarctica

Glaciers are the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Shrinking glaciers are the world’s most visual, most impressive evidence of globally warming temperatures. This is particularly evident around the Antarctic Peninsula, which is currently warming at around six times the global average. This warming is driving dramatic changes in snow and ice cover; glaciers are thinning, accelerating and receding, and their buttressing ice shelves are collapsing.     The Antarctic Peninsula The ~400 glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula are particularly sensitive to climate change because they are relatively small and are located on a high mountainous spine, projecting northwards from the Antarctic continent towards warmer latitudes....

Alpine plants and recent climate change

Alpine plants grow above the altitudinal tree-line in mountains around the world. Because alpine plants grow in areas with low summer and winter temperatures, very low night temperatures, frost, short growing-season, high winds, or extended snow-lie, and grow very slowly, it is widely accepted that alpines grow in such extreme habitats because of their physiological tolerance or requirement for cold conditions and/or their intolerance to competition from taller, more rapidly growing lowland or montane plants. Some, but certainly not all, alpines can, with care, be successfully grown in lowland gardens in the absence of competition from tall plants. Alpine plants are thus potentially sensitive to climate...