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Opinion: The Massive Austrian Ski Resort Expansion Plan That Could Destroy Glaciers

Recently, news from the Pitztal and Ötztal valleys in Austria caused a stir among the mountain community. The plan to connect the two valleys and expand each ski resort - dubbed “Europe’s largest glacier ski resort” - was planned for many years. The expansion plans included Mittelberg in Pitztal, across Griestal and up to the Linker Fernerkogel, a mountain with not one, not two, but three glaciers. It was set to be the size of 116 soccer fields, mostly on glaciers.   Amongst the originally planned construction projects were three new ski lifts, restaurants and bars, a tunnel, an asphalted water reservoir, additional artificial snow systems, more than four kilometres of roads and paths, and much more. Despite this plan being rejected in 2022, revised plans have resurfaced.  In Austria, just 7% of the country’s national territory is still in a natural state and free from any technical infrastructure, but this “megaproject”...
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Ice Volume Calculated Anew

Written by Peter Rüegg. Source: ETH Zürich. Researchers have provided a new estimate for the glacier ice volume all around the world, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Their conclusion: previous calculations overestimated the volume of the glaciers in High Mountain Asia. Climate change is causing glaciers to shrink around the world. Reduced meltwaters from these glaciers also have downstream effects, particularly on freshwater availability. A lack of meltwater can greatly restrict the water supply to many rivers, especially in arid regions such as the Andes or central Asia, that depend on this water source for agriculture. Up-to-date information on the worldwide ice volume is needed to assess how glaciers – and the freshwater reserves they supply – will develop, and how sea levels are set to change.Ice thickness calculated for 215,000 glaciersLed by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an international team...
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The unique experience of a female science-art high-alpine expedition

[caption id="attachment_3750" align="alignright" width="350"] Expedition participants sit looking towards the Matterhorn near Zermatt in Switzerland. Image: Lena Hellmann/Girls on Ice Switzerland.Written by Lena Hellmann, Geographer and Leader of Girls on Ice Switzerland. In Switzerland, only 25 out of approximately 1,500 mountain guides are female, in Germany this number is around 10 out of approximately 500. Scientific positions, particularly in the natural sciences, are dominated by men with with only 23 percent of all university professors in Switzerland (1) and in Germany (2) being women. Even though these numbers have been increasing over recent decades, Girls on Ice Switzerland aims to further change these gender biases. As part of the international organisation Inspiring Girls Expeditions, the mission of Girls on Ice Switzerland is to bring out teenage girls' natural curiosity, to inspire their interest in science, and to connect arts and sciences. The exclusively female-guided mountain expedition encourages girls aged 15-17 to trust in their physical...
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Into the Hidden Valley: On a Quest for High Mountain Data

[caption id="attachment_2673" align="alignright" width="300"] Collecting snow samples to analyze black carbon deposition on Rikha Samba (Photo: Chytapten Sherpa/ Expedition team) I assume most glaciologists would have interesting stories to share about their work: the experience of studying glaciers, their research findings, and their line of work in general. But while we’re in the field, carrying on a conversation is last thing on our minds.  Most recently, I travelled to Rikha Samba for the annual 2016 autumn expedition along with two of my senior colleagues. Three other researchers from our national project partners: two from Kathmandu University, and one from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the Government of Nepal were also with us. We set out in early October when the winter cold hadn’t yet set in. Our main objective was to monitor the glacier mass balance stake network, conduct a differential Global Positioning System (dGPS) survey of attitudinal and cross-sectional...
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