Need a Reminder That All the Glaciers Are Melting? There's a Twitter Bot for That

Illustration for article titled Need a Reminder That All the Glaciers Are Melting? There's a Twitter Bot for That

Climate change and ice, they do not mix. I know it. You know it.

And now there’s a Twitter bot here to continually remind you of the existential crisis that rising temperatures pose to glaciers.


Conceived by Aslak Grinsted, a climate scientist at the Niels Bohr Institute’s Center for Ice and Climate, Daily Glacier Bot tweets satellite images taken a few decades apart of random glaciers around the world. The result is a glimpse into the increasingly dire situation for the last vestiges of the Ice Age.

“It is hard to ignore the fact of climate change when you are confronted with it every day,” Grinsted told Earther.

The bot randomly picks a glacier from the Randolph glacier inventory, a database put together by more than 60 institutions around the world. It then grabs a recent satellite image of the glacier courtesy of Landsat 8 and an archival image from the past few decades captured by earlier Landsat satellites.

Grinsted calibrated the bot to choose images from around the same date and as many years apart as possible. The images are mostly from summer or fall so that fresh snowfall doesn’t distort the view. It also weeds out very small glaciers so that the resolution is good.

The bot tweets out those two images side-by-side every few hours, presenting you, the Twitter user, with an unsettling view of the toll climate change is taking on the landscape. In many cases, it’s startling how much ice has disappeared in just 20-30 years after centuries of relative stability.


Glacier loss is pervasive in every corner of the globe from the Alps to the Sierra Nevada to the tropics. Just a scant few glaciers are growing, largely due to shifts in weather patterns like what’s happened in the the Karakoram region of the Himalayas.


Beyond being highly photogenic, glaciers provide a ton of ecosystem services. Their summer melt, a natural process being augmented by climate change, provides drinking water for millions, generates hydropower and provides habitat around the world. They’re also just generally amazing hunks of ice slowly grinding down mountains into dust, a connection to the processes that have shaped the planet for eons.

The glacier bot is here to remind you of all of that and the fact that we’re losing it.


Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.



The problem is that probably 99% of Americans have never set foot on a glacier. I used to snowboard on a glacier outside of Anchorage in the 90s. In 2007 I went back and it was gone. Gone. Disappeared around the bend. That was the moment I was completely convinced something was seriously wrong. Photos are nice, but go look for yourself. It’s shocking.