Photo Friday: Alaska’s Sheridan Glacier––via Operation IceBridge

This Photo Friday features Sheridan Glacier in southeastern Alaska, a lake-calving glacier with a rapidly disintegrating floating tongue. Alaskan glaciers are melting faster and contributing more to sea level rise than any other region in the world, according to a recent study. In April, NASA’s Operation IceBridge released the remarkable image below and described the mission and its relevance:

“In Alaska, 5 percent of the land is covered by glaciers that are losing a lot of ice and contributing to sea level rise. To monitor these changes, a small team of NASA-funded researchers has been flying scientific instruments on a bright red, single-engine plane since spring 2009.”

Sheridan Glacier, near Cordova, Alaska, is seen from an Operation IceBridge flight in August 2018 (Source: Martin Truffer/USAF/ via NASA).

Operation IceBridge is a temporary mission to collect critical data for predicting the response of the Earth’s polar ice to climate change and sea-level rise. NASA assembled the operation after an ice monitoring satellite, NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), malfunctioned in 2009, bridging the gap until the successor satellite, ICESat-2, could be launched in 2018. According to NASA, while scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center managed the two larger yearly field campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctica, monitoring Alaskan glaciers fell on a smaller team based at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska.”

This photograph from Operation IceBridge was taken on Aug. 29, 2017, from 28,000 feet, looking north while surveying Nioghalvfjerdsbrae (79 N) Glacier in northeast Greenland.

NASA said 2019 would be the final year of IceBridge flights, “the end of an era of airborne observations that has catalogued an Arctic that has experienced rapid change––from the rapid thinning of many Greenland ocean-terminating outlet glaciers to the continued decline of the Arctic sea ice pack in extent, snow cover and thickness.”

This photograph from a Sept. 11, 2016 flight captures Greenland’s Steenstrup Glacier, with the midmorning sun glinting off of the Denmark Strait in the background (Source: John Sonntag/NASA)

Joe MacGregor is IceBridge’s project scientist and a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “In terms of monitoring Arctic ice, IceBridge and its predecessor NASA airborne campaigns have produced a remarkable legacy that stretches back to 1993––more than a quarter century––beginning and continuing with the Airborne Topographic Mapper laser altimeter,” MacGregor said. “With ICESat-2 now in orbit, collecting great data and hopefully lasting for many years, we can now map ongoing changes in polar ice in fine detail from space. That will allow NASA to refocus our airborne efforts on other types of measurements or other priority areas.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

Alaskan Glaciers Are Melting Twice as Fast as Models Predicted

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

Photo Friday: Finding Glaciers in Alaska

Video of the Week: Discovery of the Hiawatha Impact Crater

Researchers at the Centre for GeoGenetics and a NASA glaciologist, Joe MacGregor, have discovered an enormous crater buried beneath Hiawatha Glacier in northern Greenland. The crater’s c-shape and planar deformation of nearby quartz samples indicate that this crater was created by a massive meteor. Using ice-penetrating radar from NASA’s Operation IceBridge, researchers discovered the crater “hiding in plain sight.” It is the first impact crater found under ice.

The “Hiawatha Impact Crater” spans 19 miles wide and 1,000 feet deep, making it among the largest craters on our planet. Evidence suggests that this crater is geologically young, and the impact could’ve occurred as recently as the last Ice Age (some 12-115 thousand years ago). View this week’s Video of the Week below to learn more about the Hiawatha Impact Crater.

Discover more glacier news at GlacierHub:

Exception or Rule? The Case of Katla, One of Iceland’s Subglacial Volcanoes

Qoyllur Rit’i: Changing Tradition Due to Glacial Melt

Human Capital Investments for Glacier Countries

Photo Friday: Island Glaciers of the Canadian Arctic

Outside of Greenland, a quarter of the Arctic’s ice lies in Canada, much of it covering the Queen Elizabeth Islands. A recent paper in Environmental Research Letters found that, during the decade between 2005 and 2015, surface melt from the ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands increased by a staggering 900 percent, from an annual average of 3 gigatons to 30 gigatons of water.

This vast input to the ocean renders the Canadian Arctic a major contributor to sea level rise. As the Arctic continues to warm, researchers expect the glacial melt to increase significantly in the next decades. While the glaciers of the Canadian Arctic remain, take a look at some striking NASA imagery of the glaciated Queen Elizabeth Islands.

A MODIS satellite image shows the icy Queen Elizabeth Islands and Baffin Island (Source: NASA).

 

Ellesmere Island has been inhabited since about 2000 B.C., and its current population is less than 200 (Source: NASA).

 

Retreating glaciers provide melt water to Ellesmere Island’s Oobloyah Valley during the summer. A willow and primrose species have been found in the moraine of the Arklio Glacier (Source: NASA).

 

About a third covered by a large ice cap, Devon is the largest uninhabited island in the world (Source: NASA).

 

A NASA Operation IceBridge flight captured a picture of Belcher Glacier, which flows from the Devon ice cap to the ocean (Source: NASA/Twitter).