DATE: April 8, 2019

SNIP: Satellite images of dramatic changes in a glacier in the Russian High Arctic is forcing scientists to rethink how cold-based glaciers work.

Cold-based glaciers exist at high latitudes that receive little snow or rain. They rarely move more than a few yards per year.

University of Colorado Boulder glaciologist Michael Willis was studying the Vavilov Ice Cap on October Revolution Island in the Kara Sea north of Siberia when he discovered the glacier began sliding dozens of times faster than is typical, according to a blog post from NASA.

“The fact that an apparently stable, cold-based glacier suddenly went from moving 20 meters per year to 20 meters per day was extremely unusual, perhaps unprecedented,” Willis said. “The numbers here are simply nuts. Before this happened, as far as I knew, cold-based glaciers simply didn’t do that … couldn’t do that.”

“This event has forced us to rethink how cold-based glaciers work,” Willis said. “It may be that they can respond more quickly to warming climate or changes at their bases than we have thought.