That's me standing in front of a glacier. Obviously, I'm pretty pumped.
What better place to start this blog than glaciers? "Glaciology" is in the name of this blog, my research is on ancient glaciers and I'm clearly way too excited about them. Before I jump into why my research on ancient glaciers is important, let's start with why you, citizen of the world, care about these giant, awesome, hunks of ice.
Everyone has heard that the glaciers are
disappearing, by why do we care if
glaciers disappear? Even outside of the issue of climate change, glaciers disappearing
has major consequences for communities. In the winter, when precipitation is
high and temperature is low, glaciers grow and store precipitation as ice. In the summer, as temperatures rise, the glacier melts. In the
Pacific Northwest, where I live and work, precipitation is high in the winter
and water that would otherwise run into the ocean, is stored as ice high up in
the mountains. In the year…
These days, when we
think of glaciers, we think of alpine glaciers. They're relatively small, and
they occur only in the mountains. By definition, a glacier must flow, so a
stagnant piece of ice is just ice, not a glacier. In alpine areas, glaciers
flow for a couple of reasons, and the slope of the mountain is only part of the
Ice is a solid, but
under enough stress, it acts "plastic," which means that under enough
stress, it can deform, or flow, without fracturing or breaking. If you hit an
ice cube with a hammer, it will break into a million tiny pieces, but with the
right amount of stress, applied over time rather than suddenly, the ice will
deform, instead of shatter. It's similar to silly putty; if you pull silly putty
apart quickly, it will snap, but if you pull it slowly, the putty stretches. If
you’re unfamiliar with silly putty, check out the first 30 or so seconds of
this video to see how it stretches and breaks.