Seasonal Glacier Velocity on the Heimdal Glacier with a pause

  • Released Monday, December 12, 2016
  • Updated Monday, September 25, 2017 at 10:12AM
  • ID: 4529

This visualization shows the seasonal ice velocity on the Heimdal Glacier in Greenland between October 2013 and October 2016. The color of the flow vectors represent the speed of the flow, with purple representing the slow moving ice and red showing the faster moving ice. This visualization includes a pause highlighting when the velocity is at a seasonal low and again when it reaches a seasonal high. The color scale is displayed in the lower left corner.

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 visualization 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 visualization, 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.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Datasets used in this visualization

RADARSAT-1 (Collected with the SAR sensor)

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

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Landsat-8 GoLIVE (A.K.A. Global Land Ice Velocity)
AnalysisOct. 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 more visualizations using this data set
GIMP Greenland DEM (A.K.A. Greenland Mapping Project (GIMP) Digital Elevation Model)
Data CompilationCourtesy of Ian Howat, OSU2003 - 2009

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.

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