AGP to participate in GAUC Global Youth Summit

Congratulations to the Alpine Glacier Project’s Zayd Abid-Waheed who will present a paper in the upcoming 3rd GAUC Graduate Forum & Global Youth Summit on Net-Zero Futures later this month.

The GAUC (Global Alliance Of Universities on Climate) states its aims are to “synergize the momentum of climate actions brought by the global major climate events including New York Climate Week, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26)”.

Organising the event are Columbia University, the University of Oxford, Yale University, and Tsinghua University, as part of the COP 26 Universities Network.

Zayd’s conference abstract follows below:

Hydropower Longevity: 2D Modelling of Sediment Dynamics in Climate Impacted Glacier Fed River Basins

Glaciers are a significant contributor of sediment into a hydrological system and, with the acceleration of deglaciation due to a changing climate, this presents an increased sediment load in high mountain areas. This represents a problem for glacier-fed hydropower schemes such those in Switzerland, which produce 56% of energy through hydropower. Sedimentation is the most common source of failure and inefficiency in hydropower, according to present research.

Prior research, however, suggests that periglacial and proglacial systems (environments located on the margin of past glaciers) through slope and depositional processes will lose much of the energy, and thereby sediment, before reaching hydropower infrastructure. However, this is theoretical and unobserved due to the difficulties of high mountain environments. Therefore, this paper aims to use innovative techniques to model the sediment dynamics of high mountain glacial catchments to identify the mechanics and validity of this phenomenon on multiple basins over time. This study also serves as a trailblazing and novel first test for the accuracy and limits of 2D modelling software in an extreme environment. The study further aims to investigate the climatic changes over time that these sedimentation patterns have had, using historic datasets to model and investigate how proximity of the historic glacial terminus affects trends using datasets stemming back to the Little Ice Age (1850).

Initial results on the single site of Findelngletscher, Switzerland, for this in-progress study show that, indeed, sediment connectivity acts in the self-managing status observed by other studies with significantly less sediment delivered to the hydropower inlet location, with much of the glacial sediment being dissipated in depositional alluvial systems. Further modelling is to be carried out to identify this trend over time as well as on the two additional catchments; Gornergletscher and Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland, to identify how topography influences sediment connectivity in Alpine systems.

2021 Field Visit

Finally….the 2021 field trip is underway. After the relaxation of travel restrictions from August 27th, with Switzerland added to the UK government green list, we’ve been able to start a small expedition to Findelen and Gorner glaciers to maintain the equipment, download data, and start out comparative photography project to show the extend of deglaciation in the Zermatt region.

Early indications are that whilst some data loggers reached capaity in July, the majority of data for the 2021 season are intact with equipment functioning properly. Weather conditions have been good – warm with cloud coverage between 0/8 and 3/8.

Findelen outwash plain, August 30th 2021

At Findelen, batteries have been changed for all of the logging sites, with data available from all loggers barring a couple. The glacier continues to retreat into the distance, a shadow of its former self as evidenced by the moraine extent in this image.

Red Paint – Prof. Liz Morris

As I walked down to the Gorner Glacier with a small group of David’s friends to scatter his ashes I was casting surreptitious glances at the exposed roches moutonees at the end of the path. A guilty conscience was troubling me. Now it seems unbelievable that any decent fieldworker would vandalise the environment she was studying; in 1976, believe it or not, I thought it would be fine to “touch up” interesting features with red paint so they could be recorded in photographs. So was the red rash still there on the roches moutonnees after 40 years? I didn’t spot anything, but in past years many people must have wondered what on earth had been going on.

I had just moved to the Institute of Hydrology after a 2 year post-doc at UEA looking at sub-glacial erosion.  Leslie Morland and I had written a paper on stress fractures in roche moutonnees and I wanted to continue to investigate sub-glacial features. DNC gave me the chance, with an invitation to join him in Switzerland, and I was soon happily recording chatter marks, crescentic gouges and fractures with a high tech (i.e. waterproof) yellow field notebook and  a very fetching matching yellow oilskin outfit.

I still have the data, but sadly my efforts didn’t seem to lead to any great insights about erosion, so the next time I joined Dave and the AGP team, in 1979, I had switched my attention to energy budget modelling over snow. Not far from the George Elliston Hut was an enticing patch of snow. I set up my AWS on possibly the most eccentric site ever chosen for boundary layer meteorology. However, the view was fabulous and I had the advantage of being near any extra sardines or Vesta curry that might be on offer – an important consideration in those days. I had been stunned to learn, on a visit to Peyto Glacier with Dave the previous year, that Canadian glaciologists lived on steak in the field, but the AGP was having none of it. Fresh bread got carried in on special occasions but I’m not sure Dave approved of such effete living.

None of us then could have imagined that the AGP would be still going strong now. I hope the current generation of young scientists gets as much out of their experiences on the Gorner Glacier as I did long ago – and it is as happy a time for them as it was for me.

Professor Liz Morris graduated from the University of Bristol in 1967 and remained at the Bristol Physics Department to study for a PhD. Her research interests include (i) basal processes of alpine glaciers (ii) development of physics-based models for hydrological and hydrochemical processes especially those involving snow and ice and (iii) the mass balance and dynamics of polar ice sheets. She has worked in the European Alps, Canadian Rockies, Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica.

Liz was appointed OBE in the Millennium Honours List for services to Polar Science and was awarded the Polar Medal in 2003. In 2012 she gave the Nye Lecture at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In 2015 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Bristol and Honorary Membership of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences. In 2016 she was awarded the Richardson Medal of the International Glaciological Society. 

IPCC: High Mountain Areas and Climate Change

A special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the inpact of climate change on high mountain areas can be downloaded from this link.

Amongst the key findings of the report are:

Observations show general decline in low-elevation snow cover, glaciers and permafrost due to climate change in recent decades

Glacier, snow and permafrost decline has altered the frequency, magnitude and location of most related natural hazards

Changes in snow and glaciers have changed the amount and seasonality of runoff in snow-dominated and glacier-fed river basins with local impacts on water resources and agriculture

River runoff in snow dominated and glacier-fed river basins will change further in amount and seasonality in response to projected snow cover and glacier decline with negative impacts on agriculture, hydropower and water quality in some regions.

The full citation reference is as follows:

Hock, R., G. Rasul, C. Adler, B. Cáceres, S. Gruber, Y. Hirabayashi, M. Jackson, A. Kääb, S. Kang, S. Kutuzov, A. Milner, U. Molau, S. Morin, B. Orlove, and H. Steltzer, 2019: High Mountain Areas. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press

Guardian Coverage: Impacts of River Engineering on River Channel Behaviour

The Guardian in the UK today covered the publication of research by the Alpine Glacier Project’s Neil Entwistle on UK rivers. The research shows that engineering and building defences might bring reassurance, but doing nothing is often more effective at reducing flooding.

The paper in Water can be found here, with the press coverage viewable at