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Massive Tibetan ice avalanche documented by NASA | The Weather Channel – Article by The Weather Channel

This before and after picture shows the disappearance of the ice sheet from a valley in the Aru Range in Tibet.


  • One of the largest recorded ice avalanches in the world occurred in July in the Tibetan Aru Mountains.
  • Scientists still don’t know exactly why it happened, but they suspect that climate change is responsible for the massive decline.

On July 17th, one of the largest ice avalanches in history was triggered in Tibet.

The ice slide lies in a narrow valley of the Aru Range and, according to NASA, left a pile of rubble almost 6 square kilometers in size and about 30 meters thick. Nine people were killed by the avalanche, as well as hundreds of sheep and more than 100 yaks, the report said.

Only one other ice avalanche is comparable in size; It erupted from the Kolka Glacier in the Caucasus in 2002, NASA also said. Additionally, scientists are still unsure of what could trigger something like the July 17 ice avalanche.

“This is scientifically uncharted territory,” said Andreas Kääb, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo, to NASA. “It is not known why an entire glacier tongue shears off like that. We would not have thought that possible before Kolka.”

(MORE: Satellite image shows the ‘skin temperature’ of the northeast)

In the animated image above, you can see the amount of ice that was lost during the slide. The photos were taken about a month apart – one on June 24th and the other on July 21st. In the second picture, the ice cover has completely disappeared and is lost forever to the waterway at the bottom of the valley.

The first image was taken by NASA’s Operational Land Imager aboard Landsat 8, while the “after” photo was taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite, according to NASA.

After the disaster, experts suspected that climate change could be responsible for the avalanche, China Daily reported. Glaciers are known to melt and break as temperatures rise, and scientists warned that more falling ice could be seen in the region in the future, the report added.

“Climate change is causing more glacial hazards through mechanisms we don’t fully understand,” Tian Lide, a glaciologist at the Institute for Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told “Especially in populated areas in the high mountains, more monitoring and research efforts are urgently required.”

MORE AT WEATHER.COM: NASA documents ice loss

The Aprapaho Glacier in Colorado in 1898. (NASA)

NASA amendment: Arapaho Glacier, Colorado (1898)

The Aprapaho Glacier in Colorado in 1898. (NASA)

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