Seasonal Speed Variation on Heimdal Glacier

  • Released Monday, December 12th, 2016
  • Updated Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 12:08AM
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The NASA/USGS Landsat 8 mission has allowed new views of the Earth’s glaciers. By tracking displacement of local surface features through the seasons on outlet glaciers from the large ice sheets, researchers from the University of Alaska, the University of Bristol, and the University of Colorado have been able to show that each glacier around Greenland has a unique pattern of flow variation through the seasons.

Seasonal variations, seen in this animation on the lower 25 kilometers of Heimdal Glacier in southeast Greenland, are caused by a combination of processes. For Heimdal, the largest forcing for flow variation is likely the input of increasing amounts of surface melt water through the Spring and Summer, but there is also an interplay between calving of ice from the end of the glacier, flow acceleration as shown in the animation, and thinning of the ice due to the extra stretching from the faster flow.

By measuring these changes in flow on seasonal timescales, scientists can develop a better understanding of what controls the flow of these glaciers where they meet the ocean. This understanding will improve our ability to anticipate flow responses of these systems in a warming climate.


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Datasets used in this visualization


    ID: 87
    Collected with SAR 2000 - 2013

    Credit: Additional credit goes to Canadian Space Agency, RADARSAT International Inc.

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  • GIMP Greenland DEM (Greenland Mapping Project (GIMP) Digital Elevation Model)

    ID: 746
    Data Compilation Courtesy of Ian Howat, OSU 2003 - 2009
  • Landsat-8 GoLIVE (Global Land Ice Velocity)

    ID: 964
    Analysis Oct. 2013 - Oct. 2016

    Credit: Mark Fahnstock (Univ. of Alaska), Twila Moon (Univ. of Bristol), Ted Scambos (Univ. of Colorado/NSIDC), Marin Klinger (Univ. of Colorado/NSIDC), Alex Gardner (JPL), Terry Haran (Univ. of Colorado/NSIDC)

    See all pages that use this dataset

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