Meltdown: The Scoop on Glaciers

April 7, 2011 :: Hester Jiskoot
Moderated by James Moore

Glaciers and ice sheets play an important role in the global environment. They are storage systems of most of the world's fresh water, dramatically alter the landscape and sea level, affect ecosystems and provide us with unique records of climate and atmospheric conditions that go back hundreds of thousands of years. Global climate change has caused widespread accelerated glacier retreat, which has negative effects on fresh water availability, causes global sea level rise and affects climate and ecosystems at the local and global scales. In order to understand how glaciers affect life on earth, it is important to understand how glaciers work and what causes them to change.

By being informed about natural systems such as glaciers we can understand why some changes in nature happen fast while others take longer, and why snapshots do not always reflect the big picture. This presentation will address recent measurements and predictions of glacier shrinkage and sea level rise, as well as local and global effects thereof, and will explain more complex issues such as ‘Why have a handful of glaciers advanced in recent years and why does this not contradict records of global warming?’

Speaker: Hester Jiskoot PhD

Dr Hester Jiskoot is Associate Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Lethbridge and holds a BSc and MSc in Physical Geography (University of Amsterdam, NL) and a PhD in Glaciology (University of Leeds, UK). She is an award winning NSERC-funded glaciologist, is one of the world experts on glacier surging and has published widely. Her main research interests are in ice flow dynamics, glacier-environment and glacier-climate interactions. Since 1991, Dr Jiskoot has been a member and leader of glaciological expedition teams, and has been on glaciers in Greenland, Svalbard (Spitsbergen), Iceland, the Yukon Territory, Alaska, the European Alps, the Canadian Rockies, and the Himalayas.

In 2005 Dr Jiskoot was invited by the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to advise about the role of glaciers in the water supply prognosis for western Canada. In 2009 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and in 2010 she became Associate Editor of the scientific journal Arctic, Antarctic & Alpine Research.

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