Alaskan Glaciers Melting At Alarming Rate

A new way of measuring how some glaciers melt below the surface of the water has uncovered a surprising realization: Some glaciers are melting a hundred times faster than scientists thought they were.

In a new study published today in Science, a team of oceanographers and glaciologists unpeeled a new layer of understanding of tidewater glaciers—glaciers that end in the ocean—and their dynamic processes.

Some of this calving and glacial melt is a normal process that glaciers undergo during seasonal transitions from winter to summer, and even through the summer. But a warming climate accelerates glacier melting across the globe, potentially through melting across the surface of the glacier, but also through underwater melting.

Glacial ice accelerates as the ice approaches the front of the glacier, where it drops into the ocean, said Moon. She compares the ice movement to squeezing a tube of toothpaste: Once your toothpaste gets to the very end, it doesn’t have any other toothpaste blocking its progress, so it moves more quickly. Ice near the glacier face can move almost 75 feet per day and knowing this speed is essential to calculate melting.

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