In this week’s Video of the Week, watch a massive glacier calving event that occurred at Helheim Glacier in Greenland. The video was captured on 22 June 2018 by Denise Holland of New York University.
The calving event took place over a 30-minute time period, and was sped up into a time-lapse of about 90 seconds. During this time span, over four miles of the glacier’s edge broke off, flowing into one of the fjords that connects Helheim Glacier to the ocean. To put this in perspective, a calving event of this size would measure roughly the size of lower Manhattan, all the way to Midtown in New York City. In a warming world, glacier calving is a large force contributing to global sea-level rise.
Earlier this week, Denise Holland from New York University’s Center for Global Sea Level Change captured an epic video of the birth of an iceberg. The new iceberg was formed from a recent calving event as it separated from its parent, the Helheim Glacier, in Eastern Greenland. As described on EarthSky, the iceberg, if laid atop New York City, would stretch from lower Manhattan to Midtown. The wide and flat tabular iceberg proceeded to break into two as it travelled down the fjord.
Holland and her team were studying glacier calving events in Greenland to create more accurate simulations for global sea-level rise. Although the video is only 100 seconds, the entire event supposedly lasted for over 30 minutes. For other techniques, GlacierHub has previously covered this use of time-lapse photography and sound to study glacier calving.
Global Assesment of Sustainable Mountain Development
From Mountain Research Institute: “The MRI is collaborating with the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) to develop an approach for assessing sustainable mountain development using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. It is expected that this approach will help contextualize and highlight the specific needs and challenges faced in mountain areas, and inform policy and decision-making at all levels…The results of this project will be published as an issue brief in the fourth quarter of 2018. A session dedicated to the presentation of this issue brief will take place at the upcoming World Mountains Forum 2018, to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in October.
From Quaternary Science Reviews: “Helheim Glacier ranks among the fastest flowing and most ice discharging outlets of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS)… We present the first record of direct Holocene ice-marginal changes of the Helheim Glacier following the initial deglaciation. By analyzing cores from lakes adjacent to the present ice margin, we pinpoint periods of advance and retreat… Helheim Glacier’s present extent is the largest since the last deglaciation, and its Holocene history shows that it is capable of recovering after several millennia of warming and retreat.”
From International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: “The Indian border region of Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir State, has a sensitive Himalayan ecosystem and has experienced natural hazards and disasters of varying scales over the decades. Ladakh is also situated on a fault-line of multiple tensions, including ongoing border disagreements and intermittent conflict with China and Pakistan. This paper examines the implications of the intersection of these environmental and security factors for disaster governance in the region. This case study provides important insight into why disaster risk reduction has been slow or absent in conflict zones.”
Imagine if we had a crowd-sourced digital record of the damage climate change is causing to our planet. That’s the mission of Project Pressure, an UK-based organization dedicated to documenting and publicizing the world’s vanishing glaciers. With MELT, an open source digital atlas, Project Pressure hopes to give the public a new tool to visually tour the world’s receding glaciers, helping us all to better understand the ongoing impact of rising global temperatures.
Rather than relying on satellite images and direct measurement, two techniques that have their limits, Project Pressure hopes to document glacier fluctuations of the world’s 300,000 glaciers through comparative imagery. This will allow researchers to analyze glaciers otherwise inaccessible for direct measurement and provide new visual insights to changes in glacier length. The images are both heartbreaking and alarming, demonstrating both the staggering beauty of our world glaciers and their current state of decline.
Take a look at GlacierHub’s collection of images from Project Pressure, and learn more about the initiative here.
On July 20, 2010, researchers from Swansea University in Wales were setting up equipment near Helheim Glacier in Greenland when they happened to witness a 4-kilometer crack in the ice forming that extended from one side to the other. Quickly, they set up a time-lapse camera to record one of the largest glacier calving events ever filmed. They knew that they glacier advanced rapidly, achieving speeds as high as 30 meters per day, but they had not expected a sudden event.
As the split in the ice grew, it thrust the front part of the glacier into the ocean with great force. It rotated and flipped over into the ocean in the seconds before the glacier front fully broke off and floated away. Once the separation was complete, the ocean was filled so thickly with chunks of ice it was impossible to see the water.
This film and other data form the basis of a new study that was published last month in the journal Nature Geoscience, “Buoyant flexure and basal crevassing in dynamic mass loss at Helheim Glacier.” The researchers, Timothy D. James, Tavi Murray, Nick Selmes, Kilian Scharrer and Martin O’Leary, found the ocean itself is breaking up the glaciers. In plainer English, when a glacier reaches the sea, the front will float, bending the ice and creating crevasses at the bottom, causing the front of the glacier to snap off. These crevasses are much harder to detect that the ones on the surface, so their role had not previously been understood. The bending of the surface was a second discovery. The team used a stereo camera to record subtle elevation changes over two summers, capturing details that previous cruder calving studies had missed.
Scientists had long known that when a glacier calves, it breaks off into the ocean. They knew as well that this ice leads to sea level rise, a seemingly straightforward process. And now they have a fuller understanding of the hows and whys of glacier calving. This knowledge is important, because most of the Greenland’s glacial ice loss over the next 200 years is expected to be from such breaking off of ice into the ocean. Armed with a clearer grasp of the calving process, researchers will be better able to produce better models of ice dynamics and sea level rise—of importance to the billions who live in coastal areas, far from Helheim but intimately connected to it.