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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Neumayer Glacier 1999-2016, South Georgia

Neumayer Glacier 1999-2016, South Georgia

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, April 5, 2016/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, sustainability, environment, climate change

                        South Georgia Archipelago (credit: Wikicommons)

Research published in Nature models the latest data on the potential for rapid melting of Antarctica and the consequences for sea levels later this century. This is a huge issue. Antarctica itself is much better known but glaciers are already declining substantially on sub-Antarctic landscapes like South Georgia. The island archipelago was made famous by the polar expedition of the explorer, Ernest Shackleton. The island is where the crew of the Endurance rowed to safety after their ship sank.

The Endurance carried cutting-edge media technology of the day but they didn't have the capability to see Antarctic glaciers on a time-line from space. New data comparisons from Landsat imagery shows that the island's Neumayer Glacier has retreated nearly 4 miles in less than 17 years and this in a climate virtually identical to the Antarctic Peninsula, 800 miles further south. In dual satellite images taken 16 years apart, the red arrows indicate the glacial terminus in 1999; yellow arrows the 2016 terminus; and purple arrows indicating thinning of the glacier further upstream.


                                 Neumayer Glacier 1999-2016, South Georgia  (credit: Landsat, NASA)

The British Antarctic Survey has maintained a research station on South Georgis since early in the 20th Century. It continues to gather data today. The information gathered by the Survey, when combined with all the other ice measurements from Antarctica, provides an increasingly clear picture of the south polar regions.

A short video shows the changing environmental conditions on the Antarctic peninsula over a similar time-period as the new glacier comparisons from South Georgia.



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