Viedma Glacier Argentina
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Viedma Glacier, Argentina

September 15, 2011
Viedma Glacier, Argentina is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 13 crewmember on the International Space Station. The ice fields of Patagonia, located at the southern end of South America, are the largest masses of ice in the temperate Southern Hemisphere (approximately 55,000 square kilometers in area). The ice fields contain numerous valley glaciers that terminate in melt-water-fed lakes. These are known as “calving” glaciers, as they lose mass by collapse of large ice chunks from the terminus--or end--of the glacier. These newly separated chunks of ice are then free to float away, much like ice cubes in a punch bowl. The Patagonian glaciers are closely monitored using remotely sensed data as they respond to regional climate change. Visual comparison of time series of images is typically performed to quantify change in ice extent and position. The terminus of the Viedma Glacier, approximately two kilometers across where it enters Lake Viedma, is shown in this image. Moraines are accumulations of soil and rock debris that form along the sides and front of a glacier as it flows across the landscape (much like a bulldozer). Independent valley glaciers can merge together as they flow downslope, and the moraines become entrained in the center of the new ice mass. These medial moraines are visible as dark parallel lines within the white central mass of the glacier (image center and left). Crevasses - oriented roughly perpendicular to the medial moraines - are also visible in the grey-brown ice along the sides of the glacier. According to scientists, the canyon-like crevasses form as a result of stress between the slower moving ice along the valley sides and the more rapidly moving ice in the center of the glacier. Calving of ice from the southwestern fork of the glacier terminus is visible at image lower left.

Credit: NASA

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