The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Batura Glacier – one of the largest and longest glaciers in the world, outside of the polar regions.
Located in the upper Hunza Valley, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, the Batura Glacier is visible in the centre of the image and is approximately 57 km long. It flows from west to east and feeds the Hunza River in north Pakistan, then joins the Gilgit and Naltar Rivers before it flows into the Indus River.
The lower portions of the Batura Glacier feature a grey sea of rocks and gravelly moraine (an accumulation of rocks and sediment carried down by the glacier often caused by avalanches). The glacier has a mean ice thickness of around 150 m, with the lower parts of the glacier holding most of its mass.
This false-color composite image uses the near-infrared channel of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission to highlight vegetation, which appears in red. Batura is bordered by several villages and pastures with herds of sheep, goats and cows where roses and juniper trees are quite common. In the upper-right of the image, pockets of cultivated vegetation alongside the Gilgit and Hunza rivers can be spotted.
Batura Glacier is located just north of the Batura Muztagh, a sub-range of the Karakoram mountain range, which includes the massifs of the Batura Sar, the 25th highest mountain on Earth standing at 7795 m, and Passu Sar at 7478 m.
Glacier shrinkage is a prominent sign of ongoing climate change. However, unlike many glaciers around the world, the glaciers residing in the mountain ranges in Karakoram are not responding to global warming. Their retreating is less than the global average, and in some cases, are either stable or growing. This anomalous behavior of the region’s glaciers has been coined the ‘Karakoram Anomaly’.
Scientists typically measure the motions of glaciers with ground-based measurements. Because of the rugged terrain and challenges involved in field studies, long-term ground observational data on Karakoram is sparse. Satellites can help monitor changes in glacier mass, extents, trace area, and length of glacier changes through time and derive surface velocity. Watch this video to learn more about how Copernicus Sentinel-2 can help enhance glacier monitoring.