Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in the Southern Andes. It is one of the world’s largest continuous masses of ice outside the polar regions.
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field spreads across the border between Argentina and Chile and is an essential fresh water reservoir. Covering an area of about 12,363 square kilometers, it is home to numerous glaciers, including the well-known Perito Moreno and Upsala Glaciers in Argentina.
The ice field is situated within the Andes mountain range and is part of two national parks: the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
“Ice fields form as a result of accumulations of snow that turn into ice through years of compression and freezing. Shaped by the underlying topography, glaciers often form at the edges of an ice field,” explained ESA.
“In this image, the ice mass feeds several smaller and bigger glaciers, including the Argentinian Perito Moreno Glacier in the top right corner. Located on a narrow channel, Perito Moreno feeds Lake Argentino and forms an ice dam that separates the main body of the lake, visible on top in turquoise, from its southern arm, which appears grey.”
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is crucial for the study of climate change as it reacts sensitively to temperature variations. Over recent years, it has experienced significant retreat and thinning due to global warming, leading to concerns over rising sea levels and loss of freshwater resources.
“Glaciers are the largest reservoirs of freshwater on our planet. The rate at which they may be melting or growing is one of the best indicators of climate change,” said ESA. “The demise of glaciers is one of the main causes of sea-level rise. Many glaciers in Patagonia have retreated over the last 50 years.”
Image Credit: ESA
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