Thinning glaciers in Asia are slowing down •

Last update: July 3rd, 2020 at 11:00 pm

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. Thinning glaciers in Asia are slowing down

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.The Baltoro Glacier (Urdu: بالتورو گلیشیر‎), at 63 km (39 mi) in length, is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions. It is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. It runs through part of the Karakoram mountain range. The Baltoro Muztagh lies to the south and east of the glacier, while the Masherbrum Mountains lie to the south. At 8,611 m (28,251 ft), K2 is the highest mountain in the region, and three other Eight thousanders within 20 km.

The glacier gives rise to the Shigar River, which is a tributary of the Indus River. Several large tributary glaciers feed the main Baltoro Glacier, including the Godwin Austen Glacier, flowing south from K2; the Abruzzi and the various Gasherbrum Glaciers, flowing from the Gasherbrum group of peaks; the Vigne Glacier, flowing from Chogolisa, and the Yermandendu Glacier, flowing from Masherbrum. The confluence of the main Baltoro Glacier with the Godwin Austen Glacier is known as Concordia; this location and K2 base camp are popular trekking destinations. Thinning glaciers in Asia are slowing down

The trough of this glacier is very wide. Small valley glaciers form icefalls where they meet the trunk glacier. The sidewalls vary from very steep to precipitous. The glacier has carved striations on the surrounding country rocks. Moving ice has formed depressions, which serve as basins for numerous glacial lakes.

The glacier can be approached via the Balti town of Skardu. 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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