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Greenland's Sweaty Summer

By Amelia Hennighausen - 2012-08-06T15:47:15Z

Photograph by Niels J. Korsgaard, Natural History Museum of Denmark

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How Fast Do Glaciers Melt?

Accelerated melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet has drawn scientific attention in recent years, as researchers continue to probe how the system itself works. Greenland ice melt studies are an important basis for projecting future rises in global sea levels.

The journal Science published on Aug. 2 a study that uses 30-year-old aerial photographs to model elevation during periods of intense ice loss. The authors conclude that dynamic ice loss can occur in short bursts, followed by less dramatic periods, challenging projections of more consistent ice loss at the edge of glaciers.

"That air temperatures have increased and melting has intensified is relatively well-understood," Kurt H. Kjaer, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, said in a press release. Less researched is ice-sheet thinning, or the accelerated flow of large glaciers toward the ocean. The ice sheet behaves dynamically, he said, "and is able to more quickly stabilize itself in comparison to what many other models and computer calculations otherwise predict."

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