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This map shows which areas of the Greenland glacier are shrinking and which are growing.
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Image courtesy of NASA

Scientists Find Greenland Glacier Shrinking
News story originally written on March 13, 1999

Using an airborne laser altimeter, scientists have measured changes in the thickness of the Greenland glacier over the past five years. While some parts of it have grown, overall the glacier has been shrinking. In some places, such as near the southeast coast, it has shrunk up to 30 feet over five years.

"Why they are behaving like this is a mystery," said Bill Krabill, Principal Investigator at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, "but it might indicate that the coastal margins of ice sheets are capable of responding quite rapidly to external changes, such as a potential warming of the climate."

Scientists originally flew across the southern part of the Greenland glacier in 1993 and then reflew the same routes in 1998 with the help of the Global Positioning System. These measurements will be augmented by NASA's ICESAT spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2001.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA