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Analysis of speed of Greenland glaciers gives new insight for rising sea level
Date:5/8/2012

d considered a scenario in which the Greenland glaciers would either double or increase by as much as ten-fold their velocity between 2000 and 2010 and then stabilize at the higher speed.

This new study shows Greenland ice would likely move at the lower rate--a doubling of its speed--and contribute about four inches to rising sea level by 2100. The previous studies used the higher speed and estimated the glaciers would contribute nearly 19 inches by the end of this century.

In the new study, the scientists extracted a decade-long record of changes in Greenland outlet glaciers by producing velocity maps using data from the Canadian Space Agency's Radarsat-1 satellite, Germany's TerraSar-X satellite and Japan's Advanced Land Observation Satellite. They started with the winter of 2000-01 and then repeated the process for each winter from 2005-06 through 2010-11 and found that the outlet glaciers had not increased in velocity as much as had been speculated.

"So far, on average we're seeing about a 30 percent speedup in 10 years [of Greenland glaciers, which gives new insight for rising sea level]," said Twila Moon, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and lead author of the paper documenting the observations.

"This study is a great example of the power of high-resolution data sets in both space and time, and the importance of looking carefully at as much data as possible in helping make the best predictions we can of future changes", said Henrietta Edmonds, program director for Arctic Natural Sciences in NSF's Office of Polar Programs.

The scientists saw no clear indication in the new research that the glaciers will stop gaining speed during the rest of the century, and so by 2100 they could reach or exceed the scenario in which they contribute four inches to sea level rise.

The record showed a complex pattern of behavior. Nearly all of Greenland's largest glaciers that end on lan
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Contact: Deborah Wing
dwing@nsf.gov
703-292-5344
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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