The glaciers of northwest Greenland •

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the glaciers and ice caps of northwest Greenland, which can be compared to a photo of the same region that was captured about 50 years ago by Landsat 1.

“Observations of Earth from space are now common. But prior to the 1970s, no Earth-observing satellites had been launched with the specific intent of monitoring our planet’s land areas. That changed with the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972. The Landsat mission continues onward through today, with the launch of Landsat 9 in September 2021,” says NASA.

Christopher Shuman is a glaciologist at the University of Maryland, who is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He was inspired by a study that examined changes to Greenland’s peripheral glaciers.

“Because this is such a cold, northern area, I figured that the losses over time would be relatively slow, so we needed almost 50 years to show the change,” said Shuman.

Peripheral glaciers are relatively small and disconnected from the main ice sheet, but they make a big contribution to sea level rise.

“Peripheral glaciers in northwest Greenland have been losing about 3.5 to 7 gigatons (4 billion to 8 billion U.S. tons) of ice per year in recent decades amid accelerated warming, according to the research,” says NASA.

“That’s more than the peripheral glaciers in southeast and southwest Greenland are losing, but less than in north Greenland, where peripheral glaciers have been losing as much as 26 gigatons (29 billion U.S. tons) per year since the early 2000s.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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