Old photos shed new light on the #Antarctic #climatechange @nclceser @nclceg

Aerial photos from the 1940s and 1950s are drawing upon CESER’s expertise in observation and monitoring to probe the climate history of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Researchers from Newcastle University, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and University of Gloucestershire, are comparing the images with newly acquired data sets to assess the changes that have occurred in some of the region’s 400-plus glaciers.

The Antarctic Peninsula has undergone dramatic changes over recent decades due to global climate change and getting an accurate picture of change in volume and mass of the glaciers is difficult. Satellites are used to track such trends today but their record span only a relatively short timeframe.

Instead, the team are comparing the old photographs with modern information.  Using novel techniques that are able to precisely position the pictures, the information is carefully aligned in order to make sure any comparisons are accurate and reliable.

CESER researcher Dr Pauline Miller, based in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University, explains: “The archive of aerial photos goes back to the 1940s and represents an extraordinary account of the pioneering days of polar exploration.

“The men who ventured forth in their planes to capture pictures of the peninsula’s rugged ice-scape took huge risks, with none of the back-up that modern expeditions can count on.

“They had no idea what they were flying into because no-one had ever been there before.  The 1940s were just about flying to see what they could find, but by the 1950s it was much more systematic – for topographic mapping purposes. It was all about staking a claim in Antarctica when nations were becoming more competitive.

“That these old images still have scientific value in the 21st Century is down to novel techniques that are able to precisely position the pictures using newly created accurate, modern-day elevation models of the peninsula.”

The study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), was presented this week at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Leading the talks were Dr Miller and Dr Lucy Clarke from the University of Gloucestershire

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Clarke said: “We want to use these pictures to work out volume and mass-balance changes in the glaciers through time.

“There are tens of thousands of these historical images, held by the British Antarctic Survey and the US Geological Survey.

“So, they’ve long been around, but it’s only now that we’ve had the capability to extract the 3D data from them.”

The team is using the latest optical satellite data to do this, as well as modern aerial photos acquired by BAS planes equipped with GPS.

Fundamental to these techniques is finding visual cues in the ice-scape that allow historical and current information to be married up.

“These visual cues have got to have some kind of rock; white areas of snow are no good to us because obviously they can change and they’re not easy to identify. We need stable areas like mountain peaks,” adds Dr Clarke.

Submit to a conference session on “Reconciling adaptation and mitigation in cities” @nclceser @ECCA2015 @ICLEI_Europe

You are invited to submit a presentation to a session on “Reconciling adaptation and mitigation in cities” to be held at the 2015 European Climate Change Adaptation Conference.  Details of the session, and a link to the submission website, are below.  This session which will focus on scientific advances in this topic is being organised by CESER director Richard Dawson (Newcastle University) and paired to a second session, led by ICLEI Europe which will provide an end-user oriented perspective.

We look forward to hearing from you, and please do circulate to interested colleagues.


Reconciling adaptation and mitigation in cities: Part I – The science basis: Recent methodological advances
Chair: Richard Dawson (Newcastle University, UK)
Co-chair: Alberto Trenzi, (ICLEI)

The urgent need to reconfigure our urban areas so that they consume fewer resources, emit less pollution (including GHGs), are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and are more sustainable in general, is increasingly recognized.

As the global population consolidates, urban areas have become focal points for sustainability initiatives. However, there is increased recognition that there are potential synergies and conflicts in the objectives of mitigation, adaptation and sustainability strategies.

These interactions, potential conflicts and synergies are no more vivid than in urban areas, where they play out through land use, infrastructure systems and the built environment.

Without sensible planning, well-meant interventions can have negative impacts elsewhere. For example, desalination can secure water supplies, but, as an energy-intensive process, can confound efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Denser cities can reduce transport energy costs, but can increase urban heat island intensity.

Many other interactions are more subtle in comparison. Road pricing strategies designed to curb emissions from the transport sector can amplify inequalities by limiting accessibility options of poorer urban residents and drive up inner city rents.

This session will explore different approaches that have been developed to understand and seeking to reconcile potential trade-offs between adaptation, mitigation and sustainability measures in urban areas.

Potential topics might include, but are not limited to, technical measures, governance and policy strategies, or bottom-up community actions. New and innovative research methods (including an update from the FP7 RAMSES project), case studies as well as exemplars of best practise from policy makers and industry are invited.

This session is linked to the ICLEI led “Reconciling adaptation and mitigation in cities: Part II – The application basis: Mainstreaming into the planning process”, attendees will benefit from, but are not required to attend both sessions.