In Iceland, Glacial Meltwater Results in a Gorgeous (and Small) Landscape

This undulating, ghostly landscape of dead trees rooted in sand dunes could possibly deliver to brain the surrealist art of Salvador Dalí or the usually placing Namib Desert, but it’s basically a zoomed-in view—just a couple yards across—of an Icelandic glacier’s meltwater, illustrating a geological course of action rarely captured in these mesmerizing, dynamic depth.

Glaciers occasionally increase tongues: long, slim ice streams that increase downhill, ordinarily towards a human body of h2o. These formations can be unstable, and are extra vulnerable to bouts of immediate melting than larger sized masses of ice are. In southeastern Iceland, in close proximity to the town of Höfn, meltwater from a glacier tongue collected in puddles atop sand deposits. The sand, like substantially of the remarkably volcanic island, bears the marks of numerous community eruptions: darkish levels of ash sandwiched among lighter coloured material.

Öræfajökull is just one of many volcanoes in southeastern Iceland that is lined by glaciers, some of which have tongues that lengthen nearly to the coastline. Theo Crazzolara, CC By 2./Flickr

Rivulets of meltwater progressively produced their own way downhill, sculpting ever-deeper channels into the layers of wonderful sand and ash, and giving the illusion of leafless, twisted trees. But we’re definitely hunting at baby Grand Canyons. The erosion course of action is the exact as more substantial streams and torrents chewing their way by means of a mountain vary to build river programs.

It’s also an example of nature’s favored math artwork, the fractal. Fractals are designs that repeat infinitely, at various scales. They are viewed most readily in the spiral of ferns and brilliant green romanesco, or the branching of snowflakes, lightning bolts, and trees—which is why the impression over so intently resembles an arboreal landscape.

Bright green romanesco, a relative of broccoli, is one of nature's tastier fractals.
Shiny eco-friendly romanesco, a relative of broccoli, is just one of nature’s tastier fractals. Dietmar Rabich, CC BY-SA 4./Wikimedia

As ephemeral as it is wonderful, this is one landscape you could not hike by way of: The fractal meltwater patterns captured are not a great deal greater than a supper desk. The graphic, taken by Manuel Ismael Gómez of Almería, Spain, was a finalist in the Art of Character class in the 2021 BigPicture Normal Earth Images level of competition.

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