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Tibetan Glacier Collapse, 2.0

Tibetan Glacier Collapse, 2.0

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, October 21, 2016/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, environment, climate change

        Tibetan Avalanche Timeline in Natural Color and Scanning Radar, July-October 2016 (credit: NASA)

Previously, Riled Up featured a massive Tibetan avalanche that had been observed by satellite photography. Now, a second slide has been seen only two months since the original collapse.

According to glaciologists viewing the new imagery: “Even one of these gigantic glacier avalanches is very unusual but two of them within close geographical and temporal vicinity is unprecedented".


                       Second Tibetan Avalanche captured in IR, 10-4-2016 (credit: Terra Earth Monitoring satellite)

The imagery was gathered by the Landsat-8 (USGS), Terra (NASA), and the Sentinel-2 (European Space Agency) satellites using various filters to capture visible light, infrared (IR), and radar wavelenth images.

According to NASA, "the glacier images suggest the collapse was due to surging where a rapid flow of ice surges from the upper to lower part of the glacier. A surging glacier can flow 10 to 100 times faster than normal. In the case of the Tibet glaciers, observations by the ESA's Sentinel satellite suggest the surging process may have primed the glaciers for collapse. Additionally, pooling of melt water was seen on the glacier surface and provides other evidence that lubrication was part of the collapse."

While the exact causes of these collapsing glaciers is still under investigation, multiple factors are likely involved including weather conditions, climate change, and the Tibetan topographic environment. The utility of re-photography to observe different timelines, track developments, and offer warnings is well demonstrated in these new glacial images from Tibet.



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