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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Ice Flow Animation

Ice Flow Animation

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, May 2, 2017/Categories: video, sustainability, environment, climate change

           Palmer Land and the Antarctic Peninsula Map (credit: Wikicommons)

When you long-term, continuous sets of ice measurements, the best way to visualize any changes is to animate the data.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has been measuring Palmer Land on the Antarctic Peninsula for more than two decades using satellite radar and ice-flow modelling. Radar is well suited for environmental monitoring of polar regions. They are prone to bad weather and long periods of darkness but scanners can gather information regardless weather conditions, clouds, or time of day. During the 24 year period, the Palmer Land glaciers sped up by 8-11 inches/day, equivalent to an average 13% increase in flow speed across the entire area. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters and combines data gathered by the Envisat satellite and the Earth Sentinel-1 missions.


   Ice speeds in the Western Palmer Land between 2014-2016, blue slower, red faster (credit: ESA Sentinel-1)

Satellite data was combined with an ice-flow model to fill gaps where data was unavailable. This approach allowed an estimation that the glaciers’ speed had increased the discharge of 3.5 cubic miles of ice/year into the surrounding Antarctic Ocean. The space agency said:

“circumpolar deep water, is relatively warm and salty compared to other parts of the Southern Ocean, has warmed in recent decades, and can melt ice at the base of glaciers which reduces friction and allows them to flow more freely. With much of Western Palmer Land’s ice mass lying below sea level it is important to monitor how remote areas such as this are responding to further warming in the region due to climate change."

You are likely to see even faster ice-flows being discharged from Palmer Land and the Antarctic Peninsula, the fastest warming parts of Antarctica, in the coming years.



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