Scientists race to analyze Austria’s rapidly disappearing glaciers

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 23, 2019   •   264

Scientists are racing to read a rapidly melting archive of climate data going back thousands of years – the inside of Austria’s glaciers, which are falling victim to climate change.

Glaciers are threatened the world over as the average global temperature continues to rise, a phenomenon that is likely to be described in even more vivid detail than before in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week.

But glaciers in Austria, on the eastern edge of the Alps, are particularly sensitive to climate change and have been shrinking even more rapidly than most, making it all the more urgent to examine their contents before they disappear, Andrea Fischer, a scientist conducting that work, said.

Fischer, part of the research team from the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research in Innsbruck, is analysing a layer of ice at the top of the Weisseespitze, a peak more than 3,500 metres high.

At the top of this mountain, Fischer and her colleagues have drilled to the bottom of the comparatively undisturbed glacier to extract samples of its ice, which is being analysed for information on the local climate thousands of years ago.

Fischer believes the ice could be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, with the extracted samples being sent for lab testing to date them.

The lower layers are more densely packed than those at the top, meaning that one metre of ice could include thousands of years of data.

“At Weisseespitze several metres of ice disappeared, the ice there is just a few metres thick. So, in a few years, this peak will be totally without ice,” Fischer said.

While analysis of other materials, such as tree trunks, can provide information on the air temperature in summer, glaciers’ ice is a rare source of information on precipitation, she said.

The team’s challenge is to take current data on how the climate is changing and compare how the climate changed over it previous centuries and millennia to determine how exceptional or usual the current process is. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisi Niesner, Suzana Sabljic, Boki Babic)

Climate change protesters disrupt London rail services

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019

British journalist, George Monbiot speaks to supporters before being arrested during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain, 16 October 2019. Global climate movement Extinction Rebellion announced climate change protests and blockades worldwide for two weeks starting 07 October. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Climate change activists disrupted rail services in the east of London early on Thursday morning (September 17), sparking a physical confrontation between angry commuters and a protester who had climbed onto the roof of a London Underground train, video on social media showed.

“I’m doing this primarily for my grandchildren because I’ve learned that what we’re heading towards at the moment is an increase in temperature of over three degrees centigrade. Suffering and death on an enormous scale. Loss of food supplies,” said Phil Kingston, an 83-year old campaigner.

“I’m also here because the poorest people in the world who live in the tropics and they are experiencing the worst impacts of climate breakdown and environmental breakdown,” he added.

British Transport Police said they had responded to incidents at Shadwell, Stratford and Canning Town, near to London’s Canary Wharf financial district.

Footage showed protesters unfurling an Extinction Rebellion protest group banner on top of a stationary London Underground train at Canning Town before one was pelted with food and physically dragged off by commuters.

“Arrests have already been made and officers are working to quickly resume services,” the police said in a statement.

Extinction Rebellion launched a wave of civil disobedience on October 7 to highlight the risks posed by climate change and the accelerating loss of plant and animal species.

Police in London said on Wednesday they had arrested 1,642 people since the protests started. (Reuters)

(Production: Tara Oakes)

Climate change protester dressed as broccoli arrested in UK

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

A climate change protester dressed as a broccoli was arrested by police in London on Sunday (October 13), shouting “give peas (peace) a chance” and holding up a floret of broccoli.

The demonstrator who was wearing a large green broccoli headpiece and green face makeup was detained in London’s Oxford Street.

In April, the same protester who is a member of Animal Rebellion, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, was involved in a protest at the House of Commons, in which protesters removed items of their clothing and pressed their buttocks against the security glass in the chamber.

The demonstrator was released later on Sunday.

Extinction Rebellion, which uses civil disobedience to highlight the risks posed by climate change and the accelerating loss of plant and animal species, is midway through a new two-week wave of actions in cities around the world. (Reuters)

(Production: Andrew Marshall, Natalia Oriol, Parniyan Zemaryalai)

Italian town makes plans for impending glacier collapse

Robie de Guzman   •   September 26, 2019

Dozens of people living close to a glacier in Mont Blanc massif, which is threatening to collapse, attended a meeting on Wednesday (September 25) to discuss possible situations of the collapse.

The town meeting was organized by the mayor of nearby town Courmayeur and regional and scientific authorities.

During the meeting, authorities monitoring the Planpincieux glacier detailed the three potential scenarios: a collapse of the glacier and its 250,000 cubic meters of ice in one go, a collapse bit by bit over time, or it staying put; if temperatures get cold enough again.

However, this scenario is not expected to happen before November or December.

Experts believe a section of this Planpincieux glacier, estimated to contain up to 250,000 cubic meters of ice could fall down the mountain.

The mayor of Courmayeur has ordered the closure of two roads and the evacuation of huts on the mountain, which is 4,800 meters (5,250 yards) high, after scientists said the glacier was sliding at an increased speed, threatening part of the Ferret Valley.

Experts have been monitoring the glacier closely since 2013 to detect the speed at which the ice is melting, but they are unable to predict when the ice would break away.

Between the end of August and the beginning of September the lower part of the glacier was sliding at a speed of 50-60 cm (20 -24 inches) per day.

Some owners of bars, hotels and restaurant, whose buildings are located along the closed road, said it’s fortunate it’s the end of the season and understood the need for preventive measures.

Others expressed concerns over the fast changing environment of the mountain, with temperatures increasing.

“It is everyone’s problem, it is not only Courmayeur’s or Chamonix’s, this is everyone’s problem. We need to have other policies in place, greener policies, and we need to change, we need to change. For sure, something has to change. This is the role of politicians, and we hope they will do so, they need to change”, said Guido Riente, who owns a restaurant only accessible by Val Ferret road, which is now closed.

Laurent Cosson , a mountain guide and refugee keeper who has been working on the mountain for twenty years, said routes once travelled by hikers could not be taken anymore, due to the dangers from potential collapse.

Nicole Passino, whose family owns a bar located on the closed road, said she understood the risk of living near a mountain.

“This is part of the mountain, we have to live with this risk and to accept it. During winter, there may be avalanches, snow, we never know if we will be able to go back home in ten or 15 minutes, or half an hour. We live in the mountain, so, we know that”, she said.

The closed roads could be partially re-opened at the end of the week to allow hikers and bikers to pass through.

Across the Alps there is concern that warmer temperatures are increasing the danger of melting permafrost and disappearing glaciers. (Reuters)

(Production: Marina Depetris)

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