Melting of sea ice reaches record levels in Arctic this summer


Sudden 30m decline in Helheim glacier: The new evidence from Greenland, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters,
showed a sudden decline in the giant Helheim glacier, a river of ice
that grinds down from the inland ice cap to the sea through a narrow
rift in the mountain range on the east coast. Professor Slawek
Tulaczyk, of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of
California, Santa Cruz, said that the glacier, where it meets the sea,
had dropped 30m this northern summer.

Front of glacier retreats 7km in four years: Over the past four
years, the front of the glacier – which had remained in the same place
since records began – retreated about 7km. As it has retreated and
thinned, the effects have spread inland “very fast indeed”, Tulaczyk

Jakobshavn moves faster than usual: The research echoed
disturbing results from studies on the opposite side of Greenland: the
giant Jakobshavn glacier (Greenland’s biggest at 6.5km wide and 300m
thick) was now moving towards the sea about 40m a year; the normal
annual speed of a glacier is about 30cm. The studies found that water
from melted ice on the surface was percolating down holes in the
glacier until it formed a layer between it and the rock below, slightly
lifting it and moving it to the sea, as if on a conveyor belt.

Gulf Stream could fail this century: This glacier is believed to
be responsible for 3 per cent of the annual rise of global sea levels.
Scientists had already shortened the odds to evens on the Gulf Stream
failing this century. When it failed before, 12,700 years ago, Britain
was covered in permafrost for 1300 years.

The Canberra Times, 26/11/2005, p. B9

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