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Greenland’s Glacier Lakes

ILULISSAT, GREENLAND– The Exploratorium crew has moved to Ilulissat, a beautiful town 250 kilometers above the Arctic Circle on the west coast of Greenland. This is a gathering place for glaciologists because it’s close to the one of the world’s fastest-moving and most productive glaciers, the Jakobshavn glacier.

Photo courtesy of NASA
A false-color (near-infrared, green, blue) view of Ilulissat and the glacier, acquired by NASA’s Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer’s nadir camera.

The Jakobshavn (pronounced ya-cub-shaw-ven) is an outlet glacier, a swift-moving stream of ice that drains from the Greenland Ice Sheet into the sea. Scientists have been tracking the speed of this glacier and were startled to discover that it has doubled in the last decade. The question is why and what significance this has to the Greenland Ice Sheet as a whole.

There are lots of science groups now studying this racing glacier and we’re here in Ilulissat to catch up with them and hear first-hand about their research. I plan to ask them whether we should be worried that the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass and raising sea level faster than predicated. So today, we’re traveling by helicopter to the top of the Jakobshavn glacier to a science group led by Sarah Das from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ian Joughin from the University of Washington. We caught up with these scientists on our trip north and grabbed an interview with Ian in Kangerlussauq before he left for his research camp. Here’s an excerpt from that interview.

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One Response »

  1. Ah come on. Surf’s up! Lisa I expect you to catch a 4 kilometer-wide lake draining on film!

    (cute fox kits, btw)