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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Let's get ready to rumble!

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If the great sheets of ice on Greenland could talk, they might be saying "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!!!"

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And why not? Ever since 2002, Greenland's glaciers have been rumbling like a stomach that is getting emptier and emptier. Or, to say it like a little more like a scientist, the rumbling caused by the movement of glaciers on Greenland has become much more frequent since 2002.

The rumbling happens when glaciers make large and sudden movements that are so powerful that they generate invisible waves that travel along the earth and are recorded by sensors used to monitor earthquakes.

The scientists have been on the lookout for glacier rumbling from Greenland since 1993. In addition to the big increase in the number of these "glacier earthquakes" since 2002, the scientists have found that many of the new glacier earthquakes are happening late in the summer.

Before you try to guess what is behind the increase in glacier earthquakes, consider the information below.

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As the temperature on Greenland has increased in recent years, many of the glaciers on Greenland have started moving faster toward the sea. The faster the glaciers move, the more icebergs they dump into the sea.

It looks like the increase in glacier earthquakes is occurring because of the general increase in glacier movement, the scientists think. More glacier movement means more sudden lurches forward of heavy masses of ice capable of generating glacier earthquakes. The scientists say that monitoring glacier earthquakes should provide a new and helpful way to keep track of the changing behavior of glaciers in the future.

Monitoring glacier behavior is a hot topic these days. Glacier behavior could play a big part in how much the level of the oceans all around the world rise in the next 100 years.


This research from Göran Ekström at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues will appear in the 24 March, 2006 issue of the journal Science