Science and Exploration

Elephant Foot Glacier As Seen From Orbit

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 25, 2015
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Elephant Foot Glacier As Seen From Orbit
Elephant Foot Glacier

Pour batter onto a griddle and watch the mixture spread out into a round-shaped pancake. The movement is similar to the flow of piedmont glaciers, which form when ice spills from a steep valley onto a relatively flat plain.

These glaciers are known for their nearly symmetric, fan-shaped lobes.

The shape of Greenland’s Elephant Foot Glacier, for example, is so distinct that it stands out dramatically from its surroundings when viewed from space. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of the glacier on June 21, 2014. “Elephant Foot is an excellent example of a piedmont glacier,” said NASA scientist Tom Neumann. “In fact, it is often used as the example of a piedmont glacier because it is so symmetric.”

Located in northeastern Greenland on the Kronprins Christian Land peninsula, the glacier is not connected to Greenland’s main ice sheet. Rather, it’s part of a network of glaciers and ice caps that pepper the periphery of the island. Research has shown that as a whole, these outlying glaciers and ice caps account for 5 to 7 percent of Greenland’s total ice coverage, but they are responsible for 20 percent of its contribution to sea level rise.

Larger image and additional information

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.