Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shrubs lend insight into a glacier's past

Date:
November 26, 2012
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
The stems of shrubs have given researchers a window into a glacier's past, potentially allowing them to more accurately assess how they're set to change in the future.

The stems of shrubs have given researchers a window into a glacier's past, potentially allowing them to more accurately assess how they're set to change in the future.

Their findings have been published 27 November in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, and show how a glacier's history of melting can be extended way past the instrumental record.

Much like the rings on a tree stump indicate how old it is, measuring the width of rings on the stem of a shrub can give a good indication of how well it has grown year on year. Under extreme environmental conditions, such as those close to a glacier, a shrub's growth relies heavily on summer temperatures, meaning the ring-width of a shrub can be used a proxy for glacial melting, which also relies heavily on summer temperatures.

Lead author of the study, Allan Buras, said: "In warm summers, shrubs grow more compared to cold summers. In contrast, a glacier's summer mass balance is more negative in warm summers, meaning there is more melting compared to cold summers.

"Big rings in shrubs therefore indicate comparably warm summers, and thus a strongly negative summer mass balance -- in other words, more melting."

The researchers, from the University of Greifswald, tested this theory on a local icecap in the Scandic Mountains of southern Norway. They took 24 samples of shrubs from a site close to the glacier and analysed their ring-widths.

Monthly precipitation and temperature data from a local climate station were retrieved from the Norwegian Meteorological Office, and the summer mass balance of the glacier, from 1963 to 2010, was retrieved from the existing literature.

Each of these data sets was then statistically tested to see if there was a correlation between them. The results showed a robust and reliable correlation between the ring-width of shrubs and the summer melting of the glacier.

"Our results show that it is possible to reconstruct glacier summer mass balance with shrub ring-width series and it is therefore theoretically possible to extent records of summer mass balance into the past," Buras continued.

The shrubs that were collected in the study were relatively young, only allowing for reliable reconstructions over the past 36 years, meaning they could not be used to extend the record of the glacier; however, the researchers are confident that this could have been achieved if longer-lived shrubs were selected.

Most of the available data on the mass balance of glaciers only spans several decades and there is some data missing, mainly because most glaciers are situated in hard-to-reach arctic and alpine areas.

With the possibility to extend the instrumental records of summer mass balance, researchers may gain a better understanding of how glaciers behave in the summer, which they can use to calibrate and verify their existing models.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Allan Buras, Martin Hallinger, Martin Wilmking. Can shrubs help to reconstruct historical glacier retreats? Environmental Research Letters, 2012; 7 (4): 044031 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044031

Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. "Shrubs lend insight into a glacier's past." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126192759.htm>.
Institute of Physics. (2012, November 26). Shrubs lend insight into a glacier's past. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126192759.htm
Institute of Physics. "Shrubs lend insight into a glacier's past." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126192759.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins