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The Drygalski glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula

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The Drygalski glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula
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With the help of the TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), scientists can gain new insights into the stability of the polar icecaps.

The Drygalski glacier is the largest glacier with a coastal discharge point in the region formerly known as the Larsen A Ice Shelf. It transports ice masses from the Antarctic peninsular down to the sea. Previously, this ice predominantly went towards ‘feeding’ the Larsen A Ice Shelf, but now the ice breaks off directly into the sea. Once the Larsen A Ice Shelf broke up in January 1995, the speed of glacier ice discharge rose to about six metres per day. The ice shelf – a giant slab of ice, floating on the surface of the sea and anchored to firm ground – forms a natural barrier. In the absence of this stabilisation, the discharge rate of the glacier speeds up.

TerraSAR-X makes it possible to determine the flow rates of glaciers much more accurately. This enables scientists to calculate much more precisely how glacial melt speeds are going to behave on the Antarctic peninsular, and what implications this is going to have for the environment.

Credit: DLR.