Satellite timelapse shows glacier in motion

This timelapse animation was created from 15 images from Landsat. It compresses 25 years of change into just 1.5 seconds to reveal the complex behaviour of the surging glaciers in the Panmah region of the Karakoram mountain range in Asia.

Credit: F. Paul, The Cryosphere, 2015 & USGS/NASA

Glaciers are shown in pale blue, snow in light blue to cyan, clouds in white, water in dark blue, vegetation in green and bare terrain in pink to brown.

The study was carried out by Frank Paul, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. He used images from 1990 to 2015.

The work was carried out through ESA’s Climate Change Initiative and was published in the journal The Cryosphere.

“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,” Paul said.

The animations show that they are not actually retreating, but are advancing or surging and flowing into each other.

“From a scientific point of view, the key motivation for this research was to understand the highly variable behaviour of the glaciers in the Karakoram.

“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,” added Dr Paul.

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