Ever wondered just how much glaciers move over the decades? Well, this gid shows 25 years of motion of glaciers on the Karakoram mountain range of Asia in just 0.7 seconds.


Created by Frank Paul, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the gif uses images taken by three different USGS/NASA Landsat satellites, between 1990 and 2015. The glaciers are shown in cyan. Pauls explains why he made them:

“The animations are a very practical way to get a better overview and follow the changes through time... The most interesting insight is to really see how the glaciers flow and how the individual parts of the glaciers such as the tributary streams interact”

Look closely at the gif, which speeds up the glacier movement by approximately 8 million times, and you’ll see the huge slabs of ice aren’t actually simply retreating as you might expect given our changing climate.


In the top image of the Baltoro glacier, for instance, you can see huge movements of the upper end of the glacier, while the front remains in the same position. While in the image below, which shows the Panmah and Choktoi glaciers, several glaciers can be seen to surge and flow into each other.

None of this is to say that the dynamics aren’t affected by climate change, however. Rather, the findings—which are published in the journal Cryosphere merely point out just how complex glacier motion can be.

[Cryosphere via ESA]


Update: A previous version of this post claimed that the Landsat satellites program was run by the European Space Agency. It is in fact run by USGS and NASA.