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See what an ice slide did on a mountain side in Tibet

NASA spots massive, deadly ice slide from space

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 10:49 AM - NASA has released images of a massive ice slide in Tibet that was responsible for the deaths of nine people.

The massive slide happened on July 17, filling a valley in Tibet's Aru mountain range with 10 square kilometres of debris, up to 30 m deep. Aside from the nine fatalities, 350 sheep and 110 yaks were also killed in the village of Dungru.

NASA says this is the largest such slide since a 2002 avalanche at the Kolka glacier in the Caucasus. 

For a sense of how enormous this is, take a look at the before-and-after in the slider below.

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NASA says the slide is a headscratcher for scientists.

"It is unknown why an entire glacier tongue would shear off like this. We would not have thought this was even possible before Kolka happened," said University of Oslo glaciologist Andreas Kääb, referring to the 2002 slide in the Caucasus.

Other experts say the landscape shouldn't have been conducive to a slide like this.

Glaciologist Tian Lide of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said the area of the collapse is "rather flat", and though satellite pictures before the slide suggest the glacier might have been on the verge of "surging", Kääb says such surging is typically much slower than what actually occurred.

"The form is completely wrong,” University of Arizona glaciologist Jeffrey Kargel told NASA. "It must be a high-energy mass flow. Maybe liquid water lubrication at the base played some role."

SOURCE: NASA Earth Observatory

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