*NEWS*GLACIER RACES TO OCEAN …….

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*NEWS*GLACIER RACES TO OCEAN …….

 user 2005-12-20 at 10:09:00 am Views: 83
  • #13674

    Greenland glacier races to ocean
    Scientists have been monitoring what they say may be the fastest moving glacier on the planet.
    Kangerdlugssuaq
    Glacier on the east coast of Greenland has been clocked using GPS
    equipment and satellites to be flowing at a rate of 14km per year.
    It is also losing mass extremely fast, with its front end retreating 5km back up its fjord this year alone.
    The researchers say Kangerdlugssuaq “drains” about 4% of the Greenland Ice Sheet, dumping tens of cubic km of
    fresh water in the North Atlantic.
    This
    gives it significant influence not just on global sea level rise but on
    the system of ocean circulation which drives through the Arctic.
    “We’ve
    seen a 5km retreat of the terminus, we’ve see an almost 300%
    acceleration in the flow speed and we’ve seen about a 100m thinning of
    the glacier – all occurring in the last one or so years,” said Dr
    Gordon Hamilton, of the Climate Change Institute at the University of
    Maine.
    “These are very dramatic changes.” And they are not confined to Kangerdlugssuaq.
    He was speaking here at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
    Model problem
    Helheim
    Glacier, just to the south of Kangerdlugssuaq, is exhibiting similar
    changed behaviour. It is flowing only slightly slower at 12km per year
    - the equivalent of half a football field a day.
    Hamilton thinks a couple of factors may be triggering the quick melt.
    The
    observed recent increase in summer surface melting on the Greenland Ice
    Sheet is producing large quantities of liquid water which, if it
    percolates down to the base of the glacier, can lubricate its flow over
    rocks towards the ocean.
    And if that same warming is bringing
    higher-temperature sea waters into contact with the front of
    Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim, this could explain their rapid retreat.
    If
    other large glaciers in the region are seen to go the same way, it
    could begin to “pull the plug” on Greenland, said Dr Hamilton.
    “The model predictions for sea level rise do not include the effects of rapid changes in ice dynamics,” he added.
    “We’re
    seeing now that this component might be extremely important. And what
    it suggests is that the predictions for both the rate and the timing
    for sea level rise in the next few decades will be largely
    underestimated.”