Traces of a glacier avalanche • Earth.com

Last update: May 6th, 2021 at 12:15 am

Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features the Sedongpu region of China, where traces of a glacier avalanche – made up of fluid ice and rock – are visible. 

While glaciers have been known to detach from mountain rock and surge down to the valley at speeds of up to 300 kilometers an hour, a new study has revealed that these glacier avalanches happen more often than what was previously thought.

“We have known about debris flows originating from glaciers that break off at high elevations for several decades now, however, until relatively recently, we were extremely surprised to discover that glaciers resting on flatter beds can also detach as a whole,” explained study lead author Andreas Kääb from the University of Oslo.

“These events are reported only rarely. In fact, they only really came to light in 2002 after a huge chunk of the Kolka glacier, which sits in a gently sloping valley on the Russian–Georgian border, detached and thundered down the valley at about 80 meters a second, carrying around 130 million cubic metres of ice and rock that killed more than 100 people.”

“Using satellite data, we have now discovered that such events are more common than we could have ever imagined, and this might be a consequence of a changing climate.”

The image is based on data from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, and shows the traces of glacier avalanches that occurred in 2017 and 2018.

Image Credit: ESA 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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