Where on Earth: Tropical Glaciers in Indonesia

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Where are these glaciers located?

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).

Story adapted from Image of the Day post by Kathryn Hansen: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/91716/glaciers-in-the-tropics-but-not-for-long

  • Papua New Guinea in 1988 from Thematic Mapper (TM) on Landsat 5
  • Papua New Guinea in 2017 from Thematic Mapper (TM) on Landsat 5
  • Written by Katherine Porter
  • Designed by Dani Player
  • Music from Yesh Music (ASCAP)

A collage of satellite imagery. Text, Where on Earth?
Glaciers are pointed out at the edges of lakes in mountainous terrain. Where are these glaciers located? A. In the Yukon Territory of Canada. B. In the Sudiman Range of Indonesia. C. On the border between Chile and Argentina. D. In the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
The correct answer is B. In the Sudiman Range of Indonesia. Alpine Glaciers, New Guinea, Indonesia in 1988, photographed by Thematic Mapper, Landsat 5. The glaciers are labeled Southwall Glacier, Carstensz Glacier, Meren Glacier, East Northwall Firn, West Northwall Firn. The Sudiman Range is a chain of rugged mountains on the tropical island of New Guinea. In spite of their location just south of the equator, the mountains are high enough and the air temperatures are low enough to support a few small areas of permanent ice. In this false-color satellite image from 1988, ice appears bright blue, exposed rock is brown, and vegetation is green. Like tropical glaciers elsewhere in the world, these glaciers are shrinking.
A photo of the same location taken in 2017 by Operational Land Imager, Landsat 8 shows many of the glaciers and lakes completely melted with just exposed rock in their place. Very small remnants of Carstensz Glacier and East Northwall Firn remain. A large dark grey section nearby is labelled as the Grasberg Gold and Copper Mine. Since 1988, the amount of ice on the mountains has decreased significantly. Some evidence suggests that the decline may have started in the mid-1800s. Satellites continue to be important tools for mapping the changes to glaciers and ice sheets around the world.
Zooming out from Sudiman Range in New Guinea, north of Australia, to the entire world in space. Music courtesy of Yesh Music, ASCAP.
Where on Earth?