Thursday, December 3, 2015

Timelapse from space reveals glacier in motion

Animations that compress 25 years of satellite images into just one second reveal the complex behavior and flow of glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range in Asia.

Frank Paul, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, used images from 1990 to 2015 captured by three different Landsat satellites to create timelapse sequences of four regions in the central Karakoram: Baltoro, Panmah, Skamri–Sarpo Laggo and Shaksgam.

This mountain range is home to some of the highest peaks in the world, including the famous K2.

While timelapse films using daily photographs from cameras stationed at glacier fronts are available for some glaciers, they show only changes over a few days to a few years and only for a small part of a glacier.

Since global change is having a direct effect on the environment and society at large, it is more important than ever to understand exactly what is happening to our planet so that informed decisions can be made.

Satellites are the only realistic means of observing changes systematically over a long period of time, particularly in remote regions such as this mountain range.

The study was carried out through ESA’s Climate Change Initiative which treats glaciers as an ‘essential climate variable’. The initiative has assembled comprehensive datasets going back decades for scientists to understand exactly how these sensitive components of our environment are changing.

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