Greenland Ice River becomes fastest flowing glacier in the world
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
2/4/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Jakobshavn Glacier, widely thought to have spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic is now moving about four times faster than it was in the 1990s. The Greenland Ice Sheet has seen record melting in recent years and would raise sea levels were it to all melt away.
The Jakobshavn Glacier, widely thought to have spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic is now moving about four times faster than it was in the 1990s.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - "As the glacier moves we can track changes between images to produce maps of the ice flow velocity," Dr. Ian Joughin, the study's lead author says. Both Joughin and Ben Smith of the University of Washington's Polar Science Center in Seattle have analyzed pictures from the German TerraSAR-X satellites to measure the speed of the glacier.
The glacier reached a record speed of more than 17 kilometers per year in the summer of 2012, which is more than 46 meters per day.
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"We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland," Joughin explained.
Summer speeds are temporary, the scientists say, with the glacier flowing more slowly over the winter months. Both added that even the annually averaged speed-up over the past couple of years is nearly three times what it was in the 1990s.
Though Jakobshavn is now believed to be the fastest flowing feature of its type in the world, Professor Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist from the University of Bristol, maintains that it might not be the fastest movement ever observed. Some surging glaciers can flow very quickly for short periods, on the order of months.
The largest overall implication is that the increasing velocity of Jakobshavn, located in the south-west of Greenland, means that the glacier is adding more and more ice to the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise.
"We know that from 2000 to 2010 this glacier alone increased sea level by about 1mm. With the additional speed it likely will contribute a bit more than this over the next decade," Joughin says.
As the Arctic region warms, Greenland glaciers have been thinning and releasing icebergs further and further inland. While the glacier is flowing towards the coast and carrying more ice into the ocean, its calving front is actually retreating.
Researchers believe Jakobshavn is in an unstable state, meaning it will continue to retreat further inland in the future.
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