Earth

Columbia Glacier Retreating to the Sea in Alaska

columbia-glacier-alaska-sea-ice

It took seven years, but the photographic record of the Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound on Alaska’s southern central Pacific coast has been compiled into a time-lapse video that documents the glacier’s rapid ice discharge. This is helping researchers to understand better how tidewater glaciers are contributing to sea-level rise.

The video itself was assembled by the glaciologist William Pfeffer, from the University of Colorado Boulder, and it shows large chunks of ice splitting away from the main glacier. The ice then flows out to the sea. The glacier began to retreat rapidly in the early 1980s, after being stationary for more than a century. 150 cubic kilometers of ice was spilled into the ocean and the glacier’s terminus has retreated by roughly 20 kilometers.

In 2004, Pfeffer started taking regular photos of the glacier’s terminus. He has now amassed hundreds of images into a time-lapse video to visualize the glacier flow. It was presented at the International Polar Year 2012 scientific meeting in Montreal, Canada, on April 25th.

Typically, for mountain glaciers, the ice flows faster as it gets thicker and steeper. However, the dynamics of glaciers that advance into coastal water are different. Ice is pushed into the ocean and is thinned. Once there, it becomes buoyant, lifting its weight and reducing friction.

The whole glacier became ungrounded in 2007. This was one of the first times that scientists could directly observe the transitions between the floating and grounded states in a temperate tidewater glacier.


Video of retreating Alaskan ice is helping to quantify glacial contribution to sea-level rise.

Share

Recent Posts

Staring Into Hurricane Ian’s Eye: NASA Scientists Are Analyzing the Forces That Made the Storm So Catastrophic

NASA scientists are studying the latest satellite imagery of Hurricane Ian and analyzing the forces…

September 30, 2022

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Captures Closest View of Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa in 22 Years

Observations from the Juno spacecraft’s close pass of the icy moon provided the first close-up…

September 30, 2022

Russian Cosmonauts Undock From Space Station and Return to Earth

Yesterday, September 29, the Soyuz spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 3:34…

September 30, 2022

Ancestral Heritage and Cancer: New Connection Discovered

The study also identified a new prostate cancer taxonomy. Two groundbreaking studies recently published in the…

September 30, 2022

Scientists Discover the Secret to Making Food Seem Tastier

How does color impact how you perceive food? According to recent research, a restaurant may…

September 30, 2022

Celebrate “International Observe the Moon Night 2022” With NASA

NASA invites the public to participate in the celebration of "International Observe the Moon Night"…

September 30, 2022