It descends from an ice field 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains, and into a narrow inlet that leads into Prince William Sound.
Changes to the Columbia Glacier were tracked over more than 30 years using data from Landsat 4, 5, 7, and 8 data.
It is a large tidewater glacier, flowing directly into the sea. When British explorers first surveyed it in 1794, its nose—or terminus—extended south to the northern edge of Heather Island, a small island near the mouth of Columbia Bay. The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat that continues today.
False-color images, captured by Landsat satellites, show how the glacier and the surrounding landscape has changed since 1986.
Image credit NASA/USGS/Landsat/Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon