Karakoram Anomaly

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Watching a glacier move might seem about as interesting as watching grass grow, but for some scientists and researchers the movement of a glacier gives them great insight into the inner workings of the Earth.

Glaciologists have sped up the movement of glaciers not only to make their movements more visible to our eyes, but to study the changes glaciers around the world are facing. Climate change, increasing global temperatures and the influence of mankind have all combined to change how our world looks and behaves.

Ice in motion is fascinating; glaciers carve valleys through massive mountains and leave miles of rock piles in their wake. Many glaciers are receding as a result of global warming, and researchers aren’t sure if any of them will make a comeback anytime soon.

Using Landsat satellite data, researchers compiled videos and still pictures of glaciers from four regions in the Karakoram mountains in central Asia. These mountains are known for containing some of the highest mountains in the world, including K2. Unlike other glacial regions in the world, glaciers in the Karakoram are advancing rather than retreating. Scientists are trying to find out what makes this part of the world different for glaciers.

This unique glacier behavior has been dubbed the Karakoram Anomaly. The animations created from the satellite data show a complex and constantly changing environment that includes advancing glaciers, lakes, melting water, compressed ice and more.

These animations were only made possible through the open data available from Landsat satellites. Researchers combed through many different data sets and brought together the images that were the basis of the glacier animation. The glacier imagery showed a new area of glacial surges in the Karakoram that researchers have taken a particular interest in. As other glaciers retreat because of climate change, the Karakoram Anomaly will continue to keep researchers busy finding out why glaciers in this region are surging.

This animation shows the movement of ice and debris near Panmah Glacier in Pakistan, near Central Karakoram National Park. The 17 false-color images were captured between August 1990 and July 2015 by the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5, the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus on Landsat 7, and the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. Source: NASA.
This animation shows the movement of ice and debris near Panmah Glacier in Pakistan, near Central Karakoram National Park. The 17 false-color images were captured between August 1990 and July 2015 by the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5, the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus on Landsat 7, and the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. Source: NASA.

More: Animating the “Karakoram Anomaly”,  NASA, January 7, 2016


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