Cold-based glacier is moving at an unbelievable pace • Earth.com

Last update: October 22nd, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Vavilov Ice Cap located in the Russian High Arctic.

This ice sheet is categorized as a cold-based glacier, which means that it is generally stable and rarely moves more than a few meters per year. However, in 2013, the outlet glacier of the Vavilov Ice Cap began sliding at an unbelievable pace.

“The fact that an apparently stable, cold-based glacier suddenly went from moving 20 meters per year to 20 meters per day was extremely unusual, perhaps unprecedented,” said University of Colorado Boulder glaciologist Michael Willis. “The numbers here are simply nuts. Before this happened, as far as I knew, cold-based glaciers simply didn’t do that…couldn’t do that.”

By 2018, the glacier’s ice shelf had more than doubled and the ice had substantially thinned on land, particularly around the edges.

“This event has forced us to rethink how cold-based glaciers work,” said Willis. “It may be that they can respond more quickly to warming climate or changes at their bases than we have thought.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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