Thursday, 17 December 2009

Glaciers online

Visit Glaciers Online (click on the link above or go to for access to a vast range of beautiful and spectacular glacier-related photographs. This image bank has been produced by Jürg Alean (Kantonsschule Zürcher Unterland, Switzerland) and Professor Mike Hambrey (University of Aberystwyth) and includes a glossary and excellent information to accompany each photograph. The images cover glaciers all over the world from the Himalayas to the Antarctic. Use of the images is protected by copyright but can be used free of charge for educational purposes (with a suitable acknowledgement to the authors).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Kilimanjaro icefield disappearing

A combination of recent aerial photograph interpretation and ground drilling (in 2000) has revealed the full extent of glacier retreat on the northern and southern summit ice fields of Kilimanjaro. The areal extent of ice decreased 2.5% per annum from 1989 to 2007 and thinning (lowering of the ice surface) has varied from 1.9 to 5.1m. At one locality, thinning represents 50% of the glacier thickness. The Kilimanjaro ice fields have so far survived 11,700 years since retreat of the last major ice sheet, this despite a 300-year drought c.4,200 years ago. This suggests a lack of precipitation is not the only driver for the contemporary ice retreat observed, but that observed warmer near-surface conditions are pivotal. Current rates of melting indicate that there will be no ice left on Kilimanjaro within a matter of decades.

Image and content from: Thompson, L. G., Brechera, H. H., Mosley-Thompson, E., Hardyd, D. R. and Mark, B. G. (2009).
Glacier loss on Kilimanjaro continues unabated. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Early Edition), 1-6. Available online at

Friday, 23 October 2009

Problems of Melting Permafrost, Siberia.

Problems of melting permafrost were reported by Luke Harding in Marresale, on the Yamal peninsula (NW Siberia) in The Guardian, Tuesday 20 October 2009. This report was a newspaper centre spread on: Climate change in Russia's Arctic tundra. Changing weather near the River Ob is causing major problems for reindeer herders, with late freezing, early melting and less predictable weather all disrupting the feeding and seasonal moving of reindeer herds. Geomorphological hazard effects include lake drainage which has occurred due to permafrost melting. Also coastal mass movement and recession due to permafrost melting. On a broader scale there is fear of release of large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane as permafrost melts. Many houses and other structures which rely on preservation of the permafrost to provide foundation stability are at risk due to melting of permafrost. Houses in some Arctic towns in the region are already reported as subsiding badly. The stability of 5,000 miles of railways is at risk with the continuing rise in temperatures and associated permafrost thawing, as is the stability of many roads on permafrost.
The image shows Permafrost & thaw lakes. Yamal Peninsula, Siberia. Photo from: Luke Harding, The Guardian, p19, 21 Oct 2009.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Freeze Frame archive

A new JISC-funded online resource has been launched ( that makes a host of photographic images available covering Polar exploration from 1845-1982. The resources are held in a collection by the Cambridge University Scott Polar Research Institute and include biographies, expedition accounts and commentaries. More than 20,000 images are available through galleries which cover topics such as ice and icebergs, ships, and wildlife. The image bank is fully searchable and can be viewed as a slideshow.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Antarctica warming: New satellite data

A new study (Steig et al, 22 Jan 2009. Nature 457, 356) has combined long term data from land stations on Antarctica with new satellite data and estimated rates of warming of 0.6 degC over 50 years on Antarctica. Warming is more rapid in the west of the continent. The study concurs with the IPCC assessment that there is at least a 66% probability of warming due to anthropogenic activity. The potential impact of Antarctic warming on sea level and global warming is hard to predict. Scientists are also concerned about the apparently imminent break-away of the Wilkins ice shelf (15,000km2) from the main continent. The image (from Steig et al 2009) shows the temperature anomaly (compared with the mean for the period) for west Antarctica. The black line represents reconstructed temperature based on satellite data, the red line shows the general trend, and the shaded area shows statistical confidence limits.