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article imageNASA: Greenland glacier retreated 1 mile in 24 hours

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 16, 2010 in Environment
NASA reported last week that a massive chunk of Greenland glacial ice was lost as it broke up and fell into the ocean. The loss of the ice meant the glacier retreated one mile overnight.
Satellite imagery showed a chunk of ice about 2.7 square miles calving from a Greenland glacier. The ice lost is approximately 1/8 the size of Manhattan Island. The calving caused the "calving front" of the glacier to retreat one mile overnight. The amount of ice lost was not as important as were the conditions noted NASA scientist, Thomas Wagner. "While there have been ice breakouts of this magnitude from Jakonbshavn and other glaciers in the past, this event is unusual because it occurs on the heels of a warm winter that saw no sea ice form in the surrounding bay. While the exact relationship between these events is being determined, it lends credence to the theory that warming of the oceans is responsible for the ice loss observed throughout Greenland and Antarctica."
The observation was of the northern part of the westerly-located Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier. NASA said this glacier has been slowly melting over the past 160 years, losing 27 miles of ice. However, the melting has accelerated with six miles of ice lost in the past decade alone. The ice loss has effectively separated the glacier into two sections - north and south. NASA said the loss of ice in Greenland is "... believed to be the single largest contributor to sea level rise in the northern hemisphere."
This calving of ice was the first time NASA scientists were able to see the event occur almost in real time, and because satellite image capture has improved, allowed the scientists to see details of the event not previously available. Images from three different satellites provided NASA with the observations of the calving event.
Earlier this year, NASA said Greenland's glaciers were "... melting 100 times faster at their end points beneath the ocean than they are at their surfaces... The results suggest this undersea melting caused by warmer ocean waters is playing an important, if not dominant, role in the current evolution of Greenland's glaciers, a factor that had previously been overlooked."
Greenland.com said some of the ice in Greenland's glaciers is thought to be up to 100,000 years old. "The ice contains 10 per cent of the world’s reserves of fresh water as well as atmospheric particles which scientists can use to gain an insight into the climate of both Greenland and the Earth going back some 250,000 years.
Greenland’s ice sheet is melting today far more rapidly than at the turn of the millennium. Many researchers think that every year the ice is losing more mass than is being created. If the entire ice sheet melted, the world’s oceans would rise by approx. 6-7 metres (20-23 feet)."
One of the latest studies, published this week, shows the level of water in the Indian Ocean is increasing. The researchers found there has been an increase of half an inch of water each decade, which they attribute to human-caused global warming. The researchers said in a press release "Our new results show that human-caused changes of atmospheric and oceanic circulation over the Indian Ocean region -- which have not been studied previously -- are the major cause for the regional variability of sea level change."
There is an upside to the melting of Greenland's glaciers. Entrepreneurs are bottling up water collected from the melting glaciers, which it is exporting to water-thirsty Dubai, reported the Copenhagen Post. With interest from buyers in Japan, Singapore and the USA, Iluliaq Original Water takes capitalization on global warming to an entirely new level. The water is said to be some of the purest in the world, but the exclusive product will not be readily available to the masses.
More about NASA, Greenland, Glacier retreat, Global warming, Rising oceans
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