Program ID: Innovation Anthology #26
Program Date: 04/12/2007
When asked how fast a glacier moves, you’d probably say at a speed slower than a snail’s pace. And generally speaking, that’s true. Normally a glacier only moves up to a hundred meters a year.
But there are some glaciers that suddenly pick up and run. These “galloping glaciers” intrigue glaciologists like Dr. Hestor Jiskoot of the University of Lethbridge.
DR. HESTOR JISKOOT: Some glaciers, for example in Greenland, they move with speeds up to 18 kilometers a year. So you can actually sit there on your chair and see day by day how fast they are moving. The official term is surging glaciers. If a glacier is resting on a soft bed, and that bed actually gets saturated with water, then it can sometimes flow really unstable. Most of the movement is happening at the bed and there is often a lot of meltwater at the bed. When that meltwater is under a lot of pressure, it can actually lift up part of that glacier. So the glacier doesn’t have as much friction under the bed. And then it can move forward really rapidly.
But just exactly why these glaciers suddenly start to surge is still a mystery that glaciologists like Dr. Jiskoot would like to solve.
Thanks today to The University of Lethbridge.
FOR INNOVATION ANTHOLOGY, I’M CHERYL CROUCHER