Thinning glaciers in Asia are slowing down •

Last update: November 16th, 2019 at 11:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory introduces a new international study which found that the movement of glaciers actually slows down as they melt.

The purpose of the study, which was led by Amaury Dehecq from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was to gain a better understanding of what regulates the speed of glacial motion. This could help scientists predict how melting glaciers will impact fresh water supplies and sea-level rise.

The team analyzed nearly two million pairs of Landsat satellite images captured between 1985 and 2017 and used automatic feature tracking to measure the distance that the glaciers had moved. The results showed that the thinner the glacier, the slower it had flowed.

This slowdown can be explained, in part, by gravity. As a glacier loses mass, its gravitational pull is weakened. The scientists noted that in a few cases where glaciers had thickened, the rate of their motion slightly increased.

The animation shows a sequence of false-color images of the Baltoro Glacier captured by Landsat 5 and 7 from 1991 to 2002.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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