West Antarctic Glacier Ice Flows and Elevation Change

  • Released Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
  • Updated Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 12:01AM
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This animation shows glacier changes detected by ATM, ICESat and ice bridge data in the highly dynamic Amundsen Embayment of West Antarctica. We know that ice speeds in this area have increased dramatically from the late 1990s to the present as the ice shelves in this area have thinned and the bottom of the ice has lost contact with the bed beneath. As the ice has accelerated, ice upstream of the coast must be stretched more vigorously, causing it to thin. NASA-sponsored aircraft missions first measured the ice surface height in this region in 2002, followed by ICESat data between 2002 and 2009. Ice Bridge aircraft have measured further surface heights in 2009 and 2010, and these measurements continue today. Integrating these altimetry sources allows us to estimate surface height changes throughout the drainage regions of the most important glaciers in the region. We see large elevation changes at the coast on Thwaites glacier, at the center of the images, and large and accelerating elevation changes extending inland from the coast on Pine Island and Smith glaciers, to the left and right of the images, respectively. The changes on Pine Island and Smith glaciers mark these as potential continuing sources of ice to the sea, and they have been surveyed in 2011 by Ice Bridge aircraft and targeted for repeat measurements in coming years.

The color bar used to show the ice velocity vector flows

The color bar used to show the ice velocity vector flows

The color bar used to show the change in elevation

The color bar used to show the change in elevation


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization is related to the following missions:

Datasets used in this visualization

  • IceBridge L2 Icessn Elevation, Slope, and Roughness

    ID: 717
    Collected with ATM NASA Sept. 2009 and Oct. 2010
  • Landsat-7 LIMA (Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica)

    ID: 599
    Mosaic Collected with ETM+ NASA/GSFC, British Antarctic Survey, USGS EROS Data Center Dec. 2002 to Feb. 2003

    Mosaicing to avoid clouds produced a high quality, nearly cloud-free benchmark data set of Antarctica for the International Polar Year from images collected primarily during 1999-2003.

    This dataset can be found at: http://lima.nasa.gov/

    See all pages that use this dataset
  • Advanced Land Observation System (ALOS) L-band frequency (1.27 GHz) radar

    ID: 721
    Collected with Phased-Array Synthetic-Aperture Radar (PALSAR) Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 1994 to 1996
  • Pre-IceBridge L2 Icessn Elevation, Slope, and Roughness

    ID: 718
    Collected with ATM NASA Nov. to Dec. 2002 and Nov. to Dec. 2004
  • Pre-IceBridge BLVIS2 (L2 Geolocated Ground Elevation and Return Energy Quartiles)

    ID: 719
    Collected with LVIS NASA 2009, updated 2010
  • ERS-1 and ERS-2 Differential Interferometry

    ID: 720
    Collected with SAR European Space Agency 2008
  • ICESat GLA14 (L2 Global Land Surface Altimetry Data)

    ID: 716
    Collected with GLAS NASA Feb. 2003 to Nov. 2008

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.