IceKing is an app for sustainable tourism on glaciers that is also used to crowd-source photographs from tourists for glacier research
Download: iOS 11.0 (50MB)
Runs offline: partially (to view images and maps a connection is required)
Last update: iOS 12/07/2018 (v. 1.1.1)
Website of the developer: IceKing
IceKing is an application that supports a more ambitious project: promoting sustainable tourism in glaciers. Its objective is not only to provide information, but also to compile pictures of these ice masses. These photographs, shared by the tourists themselves, serve to better understand the effects of global warming on glaciers.
Information provided by the app
At the time of this article, the application has information about 16 glaciers in Europe, North America and South America.
First of all, to use the app, you must open a user account. Once you have registered, from the home screen you can access different functionalities:
- A menu on the top left, from which you can configure the app, consult the help or offer yourself as a glacier guide.
- An access to the different glaciers classified by geographical region.
- A utility bar at the bottom from which you can list the different masses of ice, upload your images, chat and hire the services of guides (in preparation) and see your profile.
Each glacier has a small fact sheet which includes:
- Images (uploaded by tourists. IceKing only provides the cover image)
- Short description
- Status (retreating, stable, moving forward)
The screenshots, provided by IceKing, correspond to the iOS version of the application.
Images: screenshots 19/09/2018. © IceKing
The video is recorded using the iOS version of the application (4 min 07 sec).
Global Ice Viewer (NASA)
All About Glaciers (National Snow and Ice Data Center. Retrieved 19/09/2018)
Global warming to date could ‘obliterate’ a third of glacier ice (Carbon Brief, 19/03/2018)
Mark, B., Baraer, M., Fernandez, A., Immerzeel, W., Moore, R., & Weingartner, R. (2015). Glaciers as water resources. In C. Huggel, M. Carey, J. Clague, & A. Kääb (Eds.), The High-Mountain Cryosphere: Environmental Changes and Human Risks (pp. 184-203). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107588653.011. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281620421_Glaciers_as_water_resources
In addition to being an important tourist resource, glaciers have two key natural functions within the functioning of the planet: they are climate regulators, due to the albedo effect (percentage of solar radiation reflected by a surface that is greater in light-colored bodies) and they are also a fundamental part of the hydrological cycle, acting as water reservoirs (about 75% of the world’s freshwater reserves are enclosed in glaciers and ice sheets).
However, in recent decades, glaciers have achieved great notoriety due to their role as indicators of climate change. In fact, with a few exceptions (some ice masses in the Karakorum mountain range or the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, stable since 1917, for example), most of them are in clear retreat, as is the case in the Pyrenees or the Alps. Scientists do not hesitate to affirm that melting glaciers are directly linked to global warming, since they are especially sensitive to temperature fluctuations.
And although “it is not accurate to assume retreating glaciers comprise a generalizable water shortage to society”, as Brian G. Mark et al (2015) affirm, since numerous factors converge in the scarcity of water, in certain regions of the planet they have an important weight in the quantity of irrigation and drinkable water available, so their study and monitoring is very important.
In addition to the information provided by sensors and satellites, photographs taken at the foot of glaciers or panoramic views obtained by tourists can also provide valuable data. This is one of the main objectives of the IceKing app. Although it is still at an early stage of development, the idea of creating a service that promotes environmental tourism with the collection of evidence of global warming is very interesting, being one of the main positive aspects to highlight. However, in addition to continuing to provide more content to the app, it would be interesting to improve some aspects such as the possibility of enlarge the map, include some old photograph or make some kind of mention of the retreated distance (the glacier of San Rafael, for example, has retreated more than 12 kilometers in the last 140 years). It might also be interesting to include some kind of graph that clearly shows the evolution of the ice, similar to the information provided by the wgms Glacier app.