Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

NOVA scienceNOW: Fastest Glacier

Program Overview

Scientists are studying how the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier in western Greenland is getting smaller and moving faster due to increased melting over the past ten years.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • examines the rapid changes in Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier.

  • notes that the glacier is moving faster and thinning more than expected. From 2000 to 2005, the glacier's speed increased dramatically—instead of moving one foot per day, which is normal for a glacier, the speed of the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier has increased to an astounding 113 feet per day, and no one knows why.

  • reports that, compared to a decade ago, average temperatures in Greenland have increased 2ºC during the summer and 6ºC during the winter, leading to 60 percent more annual glacial melting.

  • explains that during the summer, some of the upper layer of Greenland's ice sheet melts, producing pools of meltwater. This water seeps through the ice to the bottom of the glacier, lifting it and making it glide faster.

  • states that annually the glacier spews 12 trillion gallons of freshwater into the ocean and that in 1999, the ice front extended eight miles beyond its present 2005 location.

  • describes how scientists use satellites to monitor ice mass movement and ground stations to measure changes in the ice sheet.

  • suggests that understanding the changes in Greenland's ice sheet will provide insight into global climate change.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Fastest Glacier

Support provided by