MAY 18, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Landslides can have a major impact on glacier melt and movement

Credit: Pixabay

When we think of glaciers, horrifying images of them receding into the water because of climate change immediately come to mind. But we silly humans who are actively destroying this planet are equally trying to learn how we can save it and the processes by which this can happen. Just like us silly humans, the Earth itself is actively trying to save itself from the ongoing damage we are causing it.

In a recent study published in Geology, a team of researchers led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities has revealed, for the first time, that landslides can have a major impact on the movement of glaciers. Landslides, also known as “mass wasting”, are defined as the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope.

Using satellite imagery to study the effects of a 2019 landslide that occurred on the Amalia Glacier in the Patagonia region of Chile, the researchers found that the landslide caused the glacier to grow in size and has since slowed down its melting process.

"These landslides are actually fairly common," explained Max Van Wyk de Vries, lead author of the study and a recent Ph.D. graduate of the University of Minnesota's N.H. Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. "If they're able to stabilize glaciers, then it might affect projections of how large certain glaciers will be in the future. There's the context of global warming and climate change here, which is causing glaciers all around the world to retreat at unprecedented rates. That's affecting essentially everyone around the world because as these glaciers get smaller, they cause the sea levels to rise."

Amalia Glacier

Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua Glacier, is located in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park in Chile. It experienced the most drastic retreat of all glaciers mentioned during the timer period of 1945 to 1986, as it retreated an alarming 7 km (4.3 mi).

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Geology, United States Geological Survey, Tourist Link

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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