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In this image you can see a glacier (blue) in Greenland calving into the sea (black). The glacier is surrounded by landmass, indicated by the red colour in the upper and the lower part of the picture. In recent years, hardly any place on earth has been more affected by climate warming than the Arctic: The ice along the edge of the giant ice cap is getting thinner and thinner, and glaciers are calving more and more rapidly. It remains to be seen if increasing snowfalls on the inner landmass can make up for the loss of frozen material at the edge of the ice cap.

 

Location: Greenland
Picture taken on September 30, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: R/NIR/SWIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

In this image you can see the Alpine region below a wintry blanket of snow. The Alps are the highest European mountain range system spanning more than 1,200 km from east to west and reaching a maximum height of 4,810 m above sea level (Mont Blanc, France). The mountains developed during the Alpine orogeny, the most recent and youngest mountain formation in the history of the earth (approximately 100 million to 5 million years ago). The Alps as we know them today developed during the last ice ages in the Pleistocene period when massive glaciers covered big parts of the mountains and their foothills.

 

Location: Europe, the Alps
Picture taken on January 17, 2011
Sensor: MODIS Terra
Band composition: R/G/B

NASA/GSFC, Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

The volcano Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island is currently dormant. Mount Taranaki is located in an area with heavy precipitation and a mild maritime climate. In this image, the peak of the almost perfectly symmetrical stratovulcano is covered with snow. Due to the radial limitation of the nature reserve surrounding the volcanic crater, the land-cover pattern is striking. The extensive rain forest in the surroundings of the volcano contrasts with the neighbouring farmland.

 

Location: New Zealand’s North Island
Picture taken on May 27, 2001
Sensor: Terra ASTER

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

With its ice tongue pointing towards Australia and New Zealand, the Mertz Glacier in East Antarctica extends into the Southern Ocean. A glacier can “calve”, which means that pieces of ice break off and start to float in the open sea as icebergs. Often comprising an area of several square kilometres, sea currents make these giants cross the Antarctic for months or even years. However, as soon as they reach northern and warmer areas, they begin to melt.

 

Location: Mertz Glacier, East Antarctica
Picture taken on January 1, 2010
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

This satellite image shows an area in the north of the Chinese province Shanxi. The blanket of snow reflects the low sun and highlights a part of the Great Wall of China which crosses the picture as a diagonal line. Also called the “Great Wall”, this famous landmark is more than 2000 years old and was built during a period of 1000 years. It is 7240 km long and stretches from Korea to the Gobi Desert. The Great Wall of China was erected in order to protect China against attacks from the north.

 

Location: Shanxi, China
Picture taken on January 9, 2001
Sensor: Terra ASTER

 

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

In the middle of this false-colour image, you can see the tongue of the Malaspina glacier. The glacier makes its way from the mountains in the north and is separated from the sea by its terminal moraine as can be seen in the lower part of the picture. Without the moraine or in the case of a sea-level rise, the glacier would come in contact with the warmer sea water and it would retreat more quickly than it does now. Satellite images and measurements on the ground show that most glaciers in Alaska are getting thinner and that only a few dozen are gaining in ice mass.

 

Location: Alaska
Picture taken on April 27, 2003
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: B/ G/ NIR

USGS; Link: http://www.usgs.gov

This image shows the two twin islands in the southern part of Hudson Bay (North and South Twin Island). In spring, the ice of Hudson Bay clears, usually leaving the south-western part, in which the two islands are located, as the last area with a closed ice sheet. Climatologists are worried about Arctic melting processes: In recent years, there have been more and more ice-free phases, signalling an increase in climate warming.

 

Location: Hudson Bay, Canada
Picture taken on February 20, 2002
Sensor: Landsat ETM+
Band combination: MIR/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

The Antarctica emperor penguins are endangered. Due to the global temperature increase, the ice in the south will melt quickly and the birds will lose their natural habitat. Scientists use satellite images in order to investigate the number of penguins in the Antarctic. Since the penguins are hard to detect due to their black and white feathering, scientists look for their excrements. In the middle of the picture, you can see brown lines that cannot originate from the ice and thus must be organic: This so-called seabird guano clearly indicates the presence of a penguin colony.

 

Location: Antarctic
Picture taken on December 4, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+ 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Patagonia is a mountainous region at the border between Chile and Argentina. You can see that the glacier (white) streaming from the mountains towards the foothills is interspersed with crevasses. The semicircular crest far left in the picture is pierced by three glacial rivers. The crest consists of coarse gravel, forming the terminal moraine for a long time, deposited by the ice tongue. Thus, the moraine marks the end of the glacier in former times and indicates a retreat of ice. In this false colour image, the vegetation is depicted in red.

 

Location: Patagonia, Latin America

Picture taken on May 2, 2000

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: VIS/NIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

The Matusevich Glacier in the Antarctic streams towards the east coast while pushing its way through a valley in the mountains. Its ice tongue has been constrained so far but once it reaches the end of the mountains, the ice spreads out and calves into the ocean. Afterwards, the undulations of the sea break the ice into small pieces that begin to flow into the open sea as icebergs.

 

Location: Antarctic

Picture taken on September 6, 2010

Sensor: EO-1 – ALI

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

In spring, Siberia’s rivers are flooded as the ice in the southern upper reaches melts before the estuary in the north is ice-free. In this image, you can see the flooded rivers Pur (left), Taz (middle) and Yenisey (right). In the false-colour image, red signals ice and snow, white stands for clouds, black indicates water, green signals vegetation and brown indicates bare ground.

 

Location: Russia, Siberia

Picture taken on June 18, 2002

Sensor: Terra MODIS

Band combination: NIR/ MIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

In this false colour image, the Susitna Glacier in Alaska seems like a river fed by its influent streams and flowing towards the valley. Due to the depiction in false colour, the vegetation in this picture is bright red, the pure surface of the ice is light blue and white, ice covered with sediment (medial and lateral moraines) is brown and water is dark blue. The dynamics of the glacier are most striking in the middle of the picture where you can see a tributary glacier pushing its ice masses sideways into the trunk glacier.

 

Location: Alaska

Picture taken on August 27, 2009

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: G/ R/ IR

 

 

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon)