The following Gif images show 25 years of glacier movement on the Karakoram mountain range in Asia.
At the 21st annual global climate change conference in Paris on Monday leaders and climate scientists representing 190 nations will discuss how to ‘save the planet from climate change’. The European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative has labelled glaciers as an “essential climate variable.”
To help promote a more fruitful discussion, University of Zurich glaciologist Frank Paul has put together a few timelapses of glaciers in the Karakoram, a mountain range in Asia that is home to some of the world’s tallest peaks, including K2. The timelapses were put together using satellite images from 1990 to the present, and the results were published in The Cryosphere on Thursday.
“From a scientific point of view, the key motivation for this research was to understand the highly variable behavior of the glaciers in the Karakoram,” said Paul in a statement. “We have known about this for over 50 years, but still have a very limited scientific understanding of what is going on there. The animations are a very practical way to get a better overview and follow the changes through time.”
Using freely available software and satellite images that are available to the public via the US Geological Survey, Paul combined 7-15 images to create a 1 second time lapse that shows glacier flow over the last quarter of a century, speeding up their actual rate of movement by about 800 million times. Such research is important because it does an excellent job of showing glacial change over time, something which would be difficult to determine simply by comparing images side by side due to the timescales involved.
Frank Paul Explains
The glaciers are shown in cyan. Pauls explains why he made them:
“The animations are a very practical way to get a better overview and follow the changes through time… The most interesting insight is to really see how the glaciers flow and how the individual parts of the glaciers such as the tributary streams interact”
Look closely at the gif, which speeds up the glacier movement by approximately 8 million times, and you’ll see the huge slabs of ice aren’t actually simply retreating as you might expect given our changing climate.
In the top image of the Baltoro glacier, for instance, you can see huge movements of the upper end of the glacier, while the front remains in the same position. While in the image below, which shows the Panmah and Choktoi glaciers, several glaciers can be seen to surge and flow into each other.
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