NASA satellites reveal the world’s thickest glacier is melting 80 YEARS ahead of schedule due to record high temperatures
- Satellite images reveal the world’s thickest glacier, Taku, is losing mass due to record high temperatures
- Expert thought it would continue to grow until the next century but expansion completely stopped in 2018
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The world’s thickest glacier has succumb to the effects of climate change.
A set of images released by NASA‘s Earth observatory shows the Taku Glacier in Alaska is reseeding for the first time in over 70 years.
Researchers predicted that the alpine glacier would one-day retreat, but the decrease in mass is 80 years ahead of schedule.
Dr. Mauri Pelto, a professor of environmental science at Nichols College and the director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project, has been studying Taku for 30 years and believed it would continue to expand over the rest of the century, as it gained a mass of 1 feet per year from 1946 through 1988.
However, the thickening did slowing down in 1989 and expansion came to a complete halt from 2013 to 2018.
Last year, it began to show visible signs of retreating, which Pelto said is linked to the record summer temperatures in Alaska.
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A set of images released by NASA ‘s Earth observatory shows the Taku Glacier (left is 2014 before melting began) in Alaska is reseeding (right is current state of glacier) for the first time in over 70 years. Researchers predicted that the alpine glacier would one-day retreat, but the decrease in mass is 80 years ahead of schedule.
‘We thought the mass balance at Taku was so positive that it was going to be able to advance for the rest of the century,’ said Pelto.
‘A lot of times, glaciers will stop advancing for quite a few years before retreats starts.
‘I don’t think most of us thought Taku was going to retreat so quickly.’
Pelto has been observing 250 massive glaciers around the world for over three decades and Taku was the only one that hadn’t shown signs of retreating.
‘This is a big deal for me because I had this one glacier I could hold on to,’ Pelto said.
‘But not anymore. This makes the score climate change: 250 and alpine glaciers: 0.’
Pelto uncovered the effects of climate change using images from NASA’s Earth observatory, which allowed him to analyze changes in the transient snowline—the boundary where snow transitions to bare glacier ice.
A set of images released by NASA’s Earth observatory show the Taku Glacier that stands north of Juneau, Alaska
Taku is deemed the thickest glacier in the world measuring 4,860 feet from top to bottom and is also the largest in the Juneau Icefield
At the end of the summer, the height of the snowline represents the point where the glacier experienced an equal amount of melting and snow accumulation.
If a glacier experiences more melting than snow accumulation in a season, the glacier’s snowline migrates to higher altitudes.
Researchers can calculate net changes in glacier mass by tracking the shift of the snow line, which Pelto was able to see in the images.
Taku is deemed the thickest glacier in the world measuring 4,860 feet from top to bottom and is also the largest in the Juneau Icefield.