The Greenland glacier thought to have been responsible for the sinking of the Titanic is moving into the sea four times faster than it was in the 1960s, pushing ocean levels ever higher – and its instability could result in it moving at 10 times the speed by the end of the century.
The Jakobshavn glacier in the south-west of Greenland, which is believed to have produced the iceberg that sank the iconic luxury liner in 1912, is now the fastest-moving glacier in the world as a result of a rapid increase in the rate at which the massive Greenland ice sheet is melting, scientists have said.
Satellite measurements show that last summer the glacier moved at a record speed of 17km a year, or more than 46m per day. The scientists said the speed was unprecedented for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland, the rest of the Arctic or the Antarctic.
"We are seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland," said Ian Joughin, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The glacier is pushing more and more ice into the ocean, causing an acceleration in the rate at which it is contributing to rising sea levels, Dr Joughin said.
"We know that from 2000 to 2010 this glacier alone increased sea level by about 1mm. With the additional speed, it likely will contribute a bit more than this over the next decade," he said.
Glaciers and ice streams running from the high-altitude interior of Greenland are continually being pushed and pulled to the sea, where giant icebergs break off or 'calve' at its leading edge, to float off into the ocean. Many end up in the North Atlantic, where they can pose a shipping hazard. (© Independent News Service)