Having already taken global climate change, this semester I am taking chemistry of earth systems and Introduction to Soils with the mosaic. While these courses are not directly related to climate change, they are providing a great balance with the mosaic.
In chemistry of earth systems we are learning about chemical reactions and different techniques to get at compositions of rocks including XRD and XRF analysis (pictures of our machines at right). Geo chem, as we like to call it, is giving me a great background in the chemistry of how the earth works. We are learning about reactions that are fundamental to keeping the planet’s systems in check (i.e. weathering reactions).
Soils class is a very nice complement to geo chem as it is providing a great understanding of clays, soil structure and soil composition. We frequently get to go on field trips (picture left) to see different parts of the valley and learn about how soils are important to our lives. The most relevant part of the course for climate change is my independent research project. I will be studying how soil development begins with deglaciation. You may be wondering how I am going to do this in Carlisle, but the answer is simple, tombstones. I will be dating lichen and developing a growth curve to see how quickly lichen are growing in this environment. The tombstones represent my recently glaciated rock and will allow the analogous study. Picture below shows an environmental that was recently glaciated (Greenland) and is now becoming populated with lichens, which will build to develop soil.
I am looking forward to further engaging in this course work and developing a great understanding of earth systems.
After going to Greenland this past August, I had even more questions after seeing Chasing Ice the second time around than I did the first time I saw it. This past week Jim Balog visted Dickinson College to receive the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism and many of us had multiple opportunities to interact with him. What I find most interesting about his work is the questions of scale, which he raises for us. Even after having seen the Greenland ice sheet, I have a hard time visualizing the scale of the ice Balog is photographing.
The photo (right) of black dots in ice exemplifies this idea for me. Take a look at it and think to your self: how big are those dots? Once you think you have an idea, click here to explore the Dark Snow project and see some pictures that have those same style of features in them with scales. (Hint: those a very small features, on the order of centimeters).
Even after going to Greenland it is still hard to imagine how massive these glacial features really are. Balog does a nice job of helping his audience visualize this with comparisons to lower Manhattan, the empire state building and the capitol building, yet I still don’t think most people can gain an appreciation for the enormity of the ice. I have included several pictures from my trip to Greenland below with relatively small icebergs with boats in the pictures for scale. Can you see the boats?
If you are interesting in viewing Chasing Ice, see Extreme Ice first, it is free!
This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Greenland with the Earth Science department. We had an incredible trip and got to see a lot of ice. Climate change is readily apparent in the landscape and in speaking with the locals. One man local to the small settlement of Kulusuk told us that the dog sledding season used to last from September until June, now they usually can’t start until late October and are ending in early May, a drastic change for this culture. Even though the season is getting shorter, families still train dogs to sled. This picture shows a mom with two new born pups, there were also more in her litter under her belly.
One our first full day of hiking we were able to see a glacier that has been studied by some Danish scientists for many years, Mittivakkat Glacier. There is a great deal of scientific literature on the subject, some of which can be found here. We were only able to see one small tongue of the glacier shown in the photograph. For more information on this glacier see journal articles here.
The most striking glacial feature we saw was an incredible tide water glacier, about 30 minutes from Kulusuk by boat. The Apusiaajik Glacier is retreating. While there is currently no scientific literature on the glacier, locals say that it is just in the past 5 years that the rock in the middle of the photograph above has become exposed. This is consistent with other glacial observation in the region that many “tide water glaciers” no longer reach the ocean.
All photographs taken by Will Kochtitzky, August 2014