Canadian satellite imagery helps measure glaciers' ice loss
What is calving?
Glaciers are a huge mass of many years of snow, ice, rock, sediment, and water. They are massive, powerful wild sculptures originating on land yet in constant movement due to their own weight and gravity. Calving is the natural process through which glaciers lose mass. The calving process begins when a rift opens in the edge of a glacier, caused by wind or water erosion, melting ice or other events that cause the glacier to become unstable like movement. This crack in the ice ultimately causes a block to break away from the land; this sudden release of a mass of ice (largest observed being the size of Manhattan) from the glacier is often accompanied by a loud cracking sound. As the block of ice falls into the water it causes large and hazardous waves, generating a new iceberg floating away.
What is dry calving?
Dry calving is a process similar to iceberg calving except that the ice block falls on the ground instead of smashing into the water. Interestingly, it has been observed that chunks of ice melt more rapidly when they fall on the ground rather than in the water. Dry calving can be a common process at the terminus of Arctic glaciers, but we currently know little about the exact mechanisms that control it and whether they are changing in a warming climate. Understanding that glacier meltwater eventually makes its way to the ocean, where it can affect global sea level, it is therefore important to improve our understanding of the dry calving process.
"CHASING ICE" captures largest glacier calving ever filmed
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