Glacier timelapse movies | Virkisjökull, Iceland

Camera mounted on Automated Weather Station 3
Automated Weather Station 3 camera view to the icefall

Each of our three weather stations and the stream gauge installation have fixed cameras pointing at the glacier and Virkisá River. They are programmed to take an image three times each day, at 9 am, 12 noon and 3 pm. The images are sent back to the BGS in Edinburgh via 3G mobile phone link. The images provide a valuable check on our weather monitoring equipment, as well as creating a visual archive of the glacier over time.

The cameras are 2 megapixel security cameras, chosen for their robustness and ability to stand up to the worst environmental conditions. So far they have performed admirably, and represent an excellent compromise between image quality and data storage availability.

Virkisjökull: Glacier margin timelapse from Automated Weather Station 1

This timelapse movie of the margin of the Falljökull portion of the Virkisjökull Glacier was filmed between 14 April 2011 and the 22 April 2012. The timelapse has been created using a single image from each day.

The ash from the Grimsvötn Eruption of the 21 May 2011 onwards can clearly be seen from 24 seconds into the film; as can the huge variation in surface meltwater discharge across the area of buried ice in front of the ice margin.

From about 28 seconds there is extensive collapse of the margin of the glacier as an englacial channel falls in, and extensional crevassing is propagated up-ice from the front.

Finally image comparisons from a year apart show the extent of surface lowering and marginal retreat that is are underway at Virkisjökull.

Virkisjökull: Icefall timelapse from Automated Weather Station 3

This movie shows a timelapse of glacier flow over the icefall between 11 April 2011 and 22 April 2012. A single image from 12 noon each day has been used.

Again the ash from the Grimsvötn Eruption can be seen at around 14 seconds onwards. Grimsvötn itself sits within the western portion of Vatnajökull, only 50 km north-west of the Virkisjökull Observatory.

The tremendous power of glaciers as agents of landscape change can be understood when one sees the speed at which ice is able to flow. Their ability to shape and carve modern mountain chains can be seen all over the world, and their legacy spreads far wider, into landscapes now totally devoid of permanent ice, both upland and lowland.


Contact Jez Everest for further information