Climate Change Dilemma: The World's Thickest Glacier Has Now Started Melting

In the last few years, climate change has slowly but surely emerged as victor against the world’s natural glaciers and ice caps, managing to melt them down, thanks to its ever-persisting heat and rising temperatures. This has led to a global crisis since melting glaciers means rising sea levels, which would then mean less livable land. In fact, sinking coastal lines are fast emerging as a problem in this climate change-ridden era, and estimates say that more land will be underwater soon.

Nevertheless, some ice glaciers stood tall and strong, holding their own against the climate crisis. But these giant blocks of ice can only do it for so long, while some of them are already starting to show signs of submission. Take for example, the Taku Glacier in Alaska’s Juneau Icefield. Massive and meaty, it once served as the poster child for glaciers who can brave the rising temperatures but is now also slowly losing the battle.

Glory Days Are Over

Thanks to new satellite photos provided by NASA’s own Earth Observatory, the Taku Glacier’s steady melting is now all the more observable. Previously, the Taku Glacier had been demonstrably gaining mass as other glaciers had slowly melted off. In fact, it’s one of the single thickest glaciers in the world, measuring 4,860 feet, or 1,480 meters, from surface to floor .

However, new satellite images (taken in August 2014 and August 2018 ) show that for the first time since 1946, the ice platforms where the glacier meets the river is retreating, a clear sign that it has started melting.

While still subtle, experts said it’s shocking since the Taku glacier is expected to continue advancing until the century ends. And so, the melting coming some 80 years earlier than expected is a clear sign of the climate change epidemic.

"This is a big deal for me because I had this one glacier I could hold on to. But not anymore. This makes the score climate change: 250 and alpine glaciers: 0," glaciologist Mauri Pelto, who has studied the Juneau Icefield for three decades, said.

"To be able to have the transition take place so fast indicates that climate is overriding the natural cycle of advance and retreat that the glacier would normally be going through," he added.

Pine Island Glacier ice shelf rift This close-up of the rift opening up across the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf was captured by the nadir-looking Digital Mapping System (DMS) on NASA's DC-8, which flew over the rift on Oct. 26, 2011 as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge. Creative Commons NASA ICE