Glaciers May Vanish in 'Geologic Instant'

Prehistoric glacier's rapid meltdown could happen again: researchers
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Jun 22, 2009 5:20 AM CDT
The royal party on a boat trip to inspect the Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier. Greenland's biggest glacier is behaving like an ancient Canadian one that rapidly vanished.   (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Joergen Chemnitz)
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(Newser) – New data about a prehistoric Canadian glacier that rapidly vanished is giving scientists a stronger model to predict the radical effects of climate change. It's very possible that the same conditions could quickly shrink today's larger ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, prompting sea levels to soar in a "geographic instant," LiveScience reports. Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier so far is behaving most like the ancient glacier.

The region's biggest and fastest tidewater glacier, Jakobshavn is retreating at about 10 kilometers per decade. Scientists predict that rate will increase when the sheet hits deeper waters, which is exactly what happened with the Canadian glacier. "Even though the ice sheet retreat was ongoing throughout that whole period, the lion's share of the retreat occurred within as little as a few hundred years," warned the lead researcher.