New research has found that a major Greenland glacier that was once one of the fastest shrinking on Earth is now growing again.

Scientists from the American space agency NASA recently reported their findings about the Jakobshavn glacier, which sits off the island’s west coast.

NASA said Jakobshavn had been Greenland’s fastest-flowing and fastest-thinning glacier for the past 20 years. During that time, it was the single largest source of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Researchers involved in the study say that, since 2016, the glacier has experienced major thickening. It is also flowing more slowly and moving toward the ocean, instead of retreating inland. They say cooling waters in the North Atlantic Ocean have caused the changes in the glacier’s activity. The cooler waters reached western Greenland’s Disko Bay.

Ala Khazendar is a glacier scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He helped lead the study.

"At first we didn't believe it,” Khazendar said. “We had pretty much assumed that Jakobshavn would just keep going on as it had over the last 20 years."

The research team has recorded cooling water near Jakobshavn for three years in a row.

Jason Box is an ice and climate scientist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. He was not part of the study. He told the Associated Press the new discovery about Jakobshavn was surprising because it had been moving in the other direction for so long.

Box said, “The good news is that it’s a reminder that it’s not necessarily going that fast.”

“But it is going,” he added.

The main reason they think this is because the cold water affecting the glacier was set in motion by a climate system called the North Atlantic Oscillation. This causes a natural, temporary cooling and warming of different parts of the ocean.

The system is similar to El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño develops when winds off the coast of South America weaken. This enables warm water in the western Pacific to move eastward.

Josh Willis is a lead investigator with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He said the latest research clearly shows that Jakobshavn “is getting a temporary break” from a long-held climate pattern. But he warns that a great amount of existing research provides evidence that the world’s oceans are increasingly warming.

“And seeing the oceans have such a huge impact on the glaciers is bad news for Greenland's Ice Sheet," he said.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


glacier (n.) - very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land

retreat (v.) - go away from one place to another

assume (v.) - think that something might be or is likely to be true, but without actual proof

reminder (n.) - thing that causes someone to remember something

temporary (adj.) - happening only for a short or limited time

pattern (n.) - a particular way something is repeated

impact (n.) - the effect something has on something else



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

  1. What did this new research find out?
  2. What was happening to the glacier since 2016?
  3. Why are waters of the atlantic cooling?
  4. Why is this not completely true?



Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

glacier, impact, pattern, reminder



Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

  1. Are oceans getting warmer?
  2. Why is this happening?
  3. What must we do to prevent it?
  4. Are you a eco-friendly person?
  5. Are you conserving energy, water, are you recycling?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA Learning English.