Ice, Ice Baby

Wanda Wang
Posted on May 16, 2016

Contributed by Wanda Wang. She  is currently in the NYC Data Science Academy 12 week full time Data Science Bootcamp program taking place between April 11th to July 1st, 2016. This post is based on her second class project - R Shiny (due on the 4th week of the program).


As the world's air conditioning unit, Glaciers keep our temperatures in check; they are the harbinger of climate change. To visualize the locations of our glaciers, and their dangerous negative progression, we will utilize a Shiny application to further explore this glaciological picture.

The Datasets

Data was retrieved from the World Glacier Monitoring Service(WGMS) and the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space(GLIMS). The GLIMS glacier database generously provided the geographic outlines of around 200, 000 unique glaciers. An active scientific collaboration network currently compiles the annual mass balance data for WGMS.


The expansive reach of glaciers on our planet is simply astounding. Here, we can visualize their specific geographic locations and name information by using Leaflet as a coordinate-friendly tool:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.26.28 PM

Indicatively, glacier mass balances are highly sensitive to climate change, in the past and in the present. Mass balance is the difference between accumulation and ablation of a glacier. Various glaciers can be examined through selection the name dropdown in the Map tab of the Shiny application.

To examine the mass balance depletion over time, we can access an animation over time, representing the negative change, on a colored scale.

As an example, for the Freya Glacier located in Northeast Greenland, we can compare 2008 vs. 2014:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.32.55 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.33.12 PM

The lighter color in 2014 represents the mass depletion over time. A perspective of urgency is meant to visually alarm.

To access the numerical mass balance measurements - the Time Series tab of the Shiny app allows the visualization of the negative trend over time for the desired location:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.38.19 PM



Variables including temperature and sea levels will be included in the following update for this project. Additional glacier characteristics (elevation point,  altitude, shape) will also be further examined.

About Author

Wanda Wang

Wanda Wang

Wanda is excited about combining data science with compelling narratives to uncover new enterprise opportunities. With 5+ years of experience in the Investment Management field, including at both Citigroup and JPMorgan - Wanda thrives in demanding, client-driven environments...
View all posts by Wanda Wang >

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