Thursday, October 8, 2020

Update (with Cranefly news)

Our AWS on Quelccaya has been decommissioned, and everything except deeply-buried tower tubing has been removed. Meteorological measurements spanning 2003 to 2018 are currently being analyzed; we welcome collaboration and data-sharing inquiries.

At least one aspect of our glacier field research will continue for another year. Also, we aspire to investigate the impact of continuing glacier recession on avian activity at Quelccaya (as reported here and here).

This week we learned more about a particular insect that was typically found at the AWS each time we visited for service and data recovery. Individuals and clusters of craneflies were observed beneath the snow surface in association with the AWS tower tubes (see above and below photos). We also observed craneflies on the snow surface near the AWS, elsewhere on the glacier, and at our glacier-margin camp. Craneflies appear to be an important food source for the many high-elevation bird species in the Quelccaya area (> 5,000m).

Cranefly photos were posted to iNaturalist after fieldwork in April 2014, seeking identification. These were identified this summer - after 6 years - based on a single specimen from Chacaltaya in Bolivia. Interestingly, this is the same location where the "Glacier Bird" (White-winged Diuca Finch, Idiopsar speculifera) was first observed in association with glaciers; Chacaltaya no longer exists.

The Quelccaya cranefly species is Dicranomyia hirsutissima. According to Pjotr Oosterbroek, author of "Catalogue of the Craneflies of the World", this is the highest known Cranefly record for all 15,000+ species found throughout the world.

This is yet another fascinating discovery from Quelccaya and the Cordillera Vilcanota, during nearly 50 years of investigation begun by Ohio State University scientists John Mercer and Lonnie Thompson.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Quelccaya Images

A new index (of sorts) has been compiled to better organize Quelccaya images depicting the weather station, snowpit measurements and sampling, as well as other aspects of fieldwork:  Quelccaya Gallery.

Links to images of birds living and nesting around & on the glacier are here.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

New paper: birds & glaciers at Quelccaya

Important scientific information has been emerging from research at Quelccaya Ice Cap for nearly 50 years, from ice core records, glacial geology studies, and meteorological measurements. In recent years, research has also yielded new biological findings, revealing the importance of glaciers to the lives of birds in the High Andes.

We published a paper in 2008 documenting nesting on glacier ice at Quelccaya by White-winged Diuca-Finches. Diucas are a medium-size tanager species found in the High Andes of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, and prior to our new publication were the only bird known to routinely build nests directly on glacier ice. This species is also among the highest-elevation nesting species in the world to at least 5400 meters (18,000 feet) – despite an environment with average temperatures below freezing, high winds, frequent snowfall, and intense solar radiation.

Our paper in the latest Wilson Journal of Ornithology provides new details on this unique behavior. Ten years of additional observations include fieldwork at Quelccaya outside the core dry season, culminating in 2 weeks at the glacier in 2016 filming a Diuca nest with 2 chicks. Besides observations of multiple active nests, the paper also documents glacier nesting by another species, the White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, and describes nocturnal roosting within or under a glacier by 5 different species. The publication includes an online Supplement (also available here) containing additional images, and links to the BBC/PBS film.

Nesting and roosting on glaciers are adaptations to the harsh environment at high elevations in the Andes, as cavities within the ice provide both a protected microclimate and protection from predators. Are glaciers important to other species, elsewhere? What happens when the glaciers are gone, victims of climate change?

Andean glaciers are shrinking rapidly, and even the largest are likely to disappear this century. Although undocumented until only 10 years ago, the lives of several bird species appear to be dependent upon these glaciers. Their loss may have a direct, negative effect on biodiversity of the High Andes - in addition to other impacts, such as water resources.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Seasonal change

The second half of September at Quelccaya is typically characterized by increasing snowfall, as the dry season concludes. Cloudiness increases rapidly at this time of year, as evidenced and measured by sharply increasing longwave radiation receipt. Air temperature continues a steady increase into November.

These aspects of Quelccaya climate are illustrated by the 2 images below, acquired by Senitinel-2 only 5 days apart. On 27 September (upper image), fresh snow is evident at higher elevations of the Vilcanota, particularly on glaciers and eastern portions of this scene. By 2 October (through high thin clouds), fresh snow had ablated from the landscape (middle image). Lower elevations of Quelccaya Ice Cap also become snow-free, revealing the transient snowline (also see lower image).

Further evidence of this seasonal change in climate is provided by the lower image - an enlargement of yesterday's image - showing the apparent disappearance of ice cover from a marginal lake (circled). In July this ice was thick enough to support a person walking across the lake.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Return from fieldwork, forthcoming papers [updated]

August fieldwork was successful and fun, despite rather unstable weather. Considerable dry-season snow blanketed south-facing slopes and the entire glacier, yet little new snow occurred during our ~10 days at Quelccaya. The panorama above shows Boulder Lake and one lobe of the glacier where we have conducted observations since 2003; Lonnie Thompson has worked here since 1974. More photos and details of recent fieldwork will be posted in the next week or two.

A variety of new papers will soon be available, so look for links on this website. As indicated below, some are closer to publication than others...

[UPDATE 10/16] Yarleque, C., M. Vuille, D.R. Hardy, O.E. Timm, J. De la Cruz, H. Ramos, and A. Rabatel. Projections of the future disappearance of the Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Central Andes. 2018. Scientific Reports. To be freely available on 22 October from Nature!

Hardy, S.P., D.R. Hardy, and K. Castañeda Gil. Avian nesting and roosting on glaciers at high elevation, Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru. Accepted 20 Aug. for Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

Hurley, J.V., M. Vuille, and D.R. Hardy. On the interpretation of the ENSO signal embedded in the stable isotopic composition of Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru. Submitted to JGR-Atmospheres.

Yarleque, C., M. Vuille, D.R. Hardy, O.E. Timm, and H. Ramos, Future projections of precipitation variability over the eastern Central Andes. Submitted to Frontiers.

Chadwell, C.D., D.R. Hardy, C. Braun, and H.H. Brecher. Thinning of the Quelccaya Ice Cap over the last thirty years. In revision/reorganization.

Hardy, D.R., R.S. Bradley, et al. The summit climate of Quelccaya Ice Cap. In preparation.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

More snow this week

As forecast by SENAMHI, the Vilcanota has received more snow. The Sentinel-2 image from yesterday shows snowcover surrounding Sibinacocha, as well as the area around the hamlet of Phinaya.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

weather forecast: more of the same

The weather forecast for today and tomorrow from SENAMHI calls for rain and snow of moderate to strong intensity in the mountains, with hail expected above 3,000 m; wind gusts to 45 km/hr.

Quelccaya's location here is indicated by the red circle. "Danger Level 3"

And it appears the forecast was accurate, with restricted travel...