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03 Feb 2014: Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier
Is Moving at Record Speeds, Study Finds

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Jakobshavn Glacier

Jefferson Beck/NASA
The calving front of Jakobshavn Glacier
Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier is flowing into the ocean at a record pace of more than 17 kilometers per year, according to research by U.S. and German scientists. The glacier, which drains 6 percent of the massive Greenland ice sheet, moved at a rate of 46 meters per day in the summer of 2012 — four times the glacier's 1990s summer pace. The unprecedented speed appears to be the fastest ever recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, the researchers report in the journal The Cryosphere. Scientists estimate the glacier added about 1 millimeter to global sea levels from 2000 to 2010; its faster flow into the ocean means Jakobshavn will add even more water over the current decade. Widely thought to be the source of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic in 1912, the researchers say Jakobshavn is flowing at record speeds because its front edge, called the calving front, now overlies a particularly deep spot on the ocean floor. "As the glacier’s calving front retreats into deeper regions, it loses ... the ice in front that is holding back the flow, causing it to speed up," the study's lead author explained.

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