Increasing speed of Greenland glaciers gives new insight for rising sea level

May 03, 2012
These icebergs recently calved from the front of the north branch of Jakobshavn Isbrae, a large outlet glacier that drains 6.5 percent of the Greenland ice sheet. The fact that they are upright, indicated by their dirty and crevassed surfaces, suggests they calved from the floating end of a glacier. Credit: Ian Joughin/University of Washington

Changes in the speed that ice travels in more than 200 outlet glaciers indicates that Greenland's contribution to rising sea level in the 21st century might be significantly less than the upper limits some scientists thought possible, a new study shows.

"So far, on average we're seeing about a 30 percent speedup in 10 years," said Twila Moon, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences and lead author of a paper documenting the observations published May 4 in Science.

The faster the move, the more ice and they release into the ocean. In a previous study, scientists trying to understand the contribution of melting ice to level in a warming world considered a scenario in which the Greenland glaciers would double their velocity between 2000 and 2010 and then stabilize at the higher speed, and another scenario in which the speeds would increase tenfold and then stabilize.

At the lower rate, would contribute about four inches to rising sea level by 2100 and at the higher rate the contribution would be nearly 19 inches by the end of this century. But the researchers who conducted that study had little precise data available for how major ice regions, primarily in Greenland and Antarctica, were behaving in the face of .

In the new study, the scientists created a decadelong record of changes in Greenland by producing velocity maps using data from the Canadian Space Agency's Radarsat-1 satellite, Germany's TerraSar-X satellite and Japan's Advanced Land Observation Satellite. They started with the winter of 2000-01 and then repeated the process for each winter from 2005-06 through 2010-11, and found that the outlet glaciers had not increased in velocity as much as had been speculated.

"In some sense, this raises as many questions as it answers. It shows there's a lot of variability," said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist in the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory who is a coauthor of the Science paper and is Moon's doctoral adviser.

Other coauthors are Benjamin Smith of the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. The research was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The scientists saw no clear indication in the new research that the glaciers will stop gaining speed during the rest of the century, and so by 2100 they could reach or exceed the scenario in which they contribute four inches to sea level rise.

"There's the caveat that this 10-year time series is too short to really understand long-term behavior," Howat said. "So there still may be future events – tipping points – that could cause large increases in glacier speed to continue. Or perhaps some of the big glaciers in the north of Greenland that haven't yet exhibited any changes may begin to speed up, which would greatly increase the rate of rise."

The record showed a complex pattern of behavior. Nearly all of Greenland's largest glaciers that end on land move at top speeds of 30 to 325 feet a year, and their changes in speed are small because they are already moving slowly. Glaciers that terminate in fjord ice shelves move at 1,000 feet to a mile a year, but didn't gain speed appreciably during the decade.

In the east, southeast and northwest areas of Greenland, glaciers that end in the ocean can travel seven miles or more in a year. Their changes in speed varied (some even slowed), but on average the speeds increased by 28 percent in the northwest and 32 percent in the southeast during the decade.

"We can't look at one glacier for 100 years, but we can look at 200 glaciers for 10 years and get some idea of what they're doing," Joughin said.

Moon said she was drawn to the research from a desire to take the large store of data available from the satellites and put it into a usable form to understand what is happening to Greenland's ice.

"We don't have a really good handle on it and we need to have that if we're going to understand the effects of climate change," she said.

"We are going to need to continue to look at all of the ice sheet to see how it's changing, and we are going to need to continue to work on some tough details to understand how individual glaciers change."

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Vendicar_Decarian
3.6 / 5 (14) May 03, 2012
And here we have another nail in the denialist coffin.
NotParker
2.3 / 5 (22) May 03, 2012
4 inches in 100 years!!!!!!!!!!

Even that Wild Assed Guess is only 1mm per year.

Sea Level has been rising at around 2mm per year for the last 100 years.
NotParker
2.2 / 5 (23) May 03, 2012
And here we have another nail in the denialist coffin.


"Glaciers that terminate in fjord ice shelves move at 1,000 feet to a mile a year, but didn't gain speed appreciably during the decade."

Ok ... so the ones moving at 30 to 325 feet are going slightly faster.

And ... the ones moving at 1000 to 5280 feet per year are not changing speed at all.

And some even slowed.
islatas
3.4 / 5 (14) May 03, 2012
Ok ... so the ones moving at 30 to 325 feet are going slightly faster.

And ... the ones moving at 1000 to 5280 feet per year are not changing speed at all.

And some even slowed.


Selective reading comprehension?
"Their changes in speed varied (some even slowed), but on average the speeds increased by 28 percent in the northwest and 32 percent in the southeast during the decade."

You stopped one third of the way through the sentence.

This article is presenting data and submitting a poposal based on a very short duration data set. They admit this. They even admit the potential for the numbers to evolve as the data set improves.

NotParker
2.2 / 5 (20) May 03, 2012
I didn't stop. This is a seperate paragraph:

"Nearly all of Greenland's largest glaciers that end on land move at top speeds of 30 to 325 feet a year, and their changes in speed are small because they are already moving slowly.

Glaciers that terminate in fjord ice shelves move at 1,000 feet to a mile a year, but didn't gain speed appreciably during the decade."

So ... the slow ones moved a few more feet per year. And the fast ones did not move any faster.

" Observed acceleration indicates that sea level rise from Greenland may fall well below proposed upper bounds."
SoylentGrin
3.4 / 5 (16) May 03, 2012
Again, we'll see the denialists accept the science (they think) will support their position, but dismiss it otherwise.
Code_Warrior
4.6 / 5 (5) May 03, 2012
In a previous study, scientists trying to understand the contribution of melting ice to rising sea level in a warming world considered a scenario in which the Greenland glaciers would double their velocity between 2000 and 2010 and then stabilize at the higher speed, and another scenario in which the speeds would increase tenfold and then stabilize.
If the previous scenarios assumed the increases would be substantial and remain constant after 2010 but the actual data is highly variable and only shows a 30% velocity increase vs. 100% and 1000% increases used in the scenarios, then this seems like good news. To me, this data says that things aren't changing as fast as we feared.

Now that we have some good glacier data, can this be fed into the climate models to improve their accuracy?
MandoZink
3.4 / 5 (15) May 03, 2012
I know from previous stories on climate which arguments always ensue. I would like to suggest that anyone who is in conflict about the science visit this page, which features an index of 173 different climate change skeptic statements, each linking to a page explaining, in detail, what is going on in each case:

http://www.skepti...ment.php

An example of index listings, including some of the common arguments I've seen here are:
2 "It's the sun"
11 "Antarctica is gaining ice"
31 "Oceans are cooling"
35 "IPCC is alarmist"
40 "Greenland is gaining ice

A very relevant animated graph is here:
http://www.skepti...php?g=47

Pardon me if this has been previously introduced. If it has then I assume it has also been ignored so as to maintain a position of disbelief.

I was disappointed this site did not address the weird claims that it's all about grant money, and that scientists are too scared to release contrary data. Perhaps they thought it too bizarre.
thermodynamics
3.2 / 5 (9) May 03, 2012
MandoZink: I particularly liked your second reference. Thank you for sharing the links.
NotParker
1.9 / 5 (17) May 03, 2012
"It's the Sun"

Could be.

http://i51.tinypi...3pmb.jpg

http://i40.tinypi...fyok.jpg

http://sunshineho...unshine/

Pardon me if I laugh. Only the gullible read the SkepticalScience website.
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (18) May 03, 2012
Again, we'll see the denialists accept the science (they think) will support their position, but dismiss it otherwise.


More often than not alarmist predictions of doom and gloom are reversed quietly.

We like to mock the old alarmist predictions with different non-alarmist science.

Polar Bears are Doomed ... ok, they are fine.

Penguins are doomed!! ... ok they are fine.

Greenland will drown us!!! Only if you are dumb enough to lay down and stay that way for 150 years.

The whole USA is burning up!!! ... except for the cooling part and that doesn't count because ... of something laughably silly.

etc etc

NotParker
1.9 / 5 (18) May 03, 2012
"Antarctica is gaining ice"

Correct.

http://arctic.atm...ctic.png

"Greenland is gaining ice"

Looks like it to me.

http://www.summit.../webcam/
MandoZink
3.7 / 5 (9) May 03, 2012
My initial awareness of the changes going on in climate had little to do with scientific claims, but everything top do with decades of gardening anecdotes. Bugs and plants have been moving and surviving every more northwards, growing seasons have been expanding, and "blossom" festivals have had to be scheduled earlier and earlier.

Here is the news of the latest UDSA hardiness zone map revisions:
http://www.washin...sszones/

I also began noticing years ago that special events up north, such as annual river ice-jam breakups (usually including local lottery estimate contests), were occurring earlier and earlier.

I observed all of this going on years before I heard about "Global Warming". I pretty much already knew by then.
SoylentGrin
3.6 / 5 (9) May 03, 2012
Only the gullible read the SkepticalScience website.


I've not seen the website before Mando posted it here. Other than a Poisoning the Well fallacy on your part, what specifically is wrong with it?
NotParker
1.9 / 5 (17) May 03, 2012
Only the gullible read the SkepticalScience website.


I've not seen the website before Mando posted it here. Other than a Poisoning the Well fallacy on your part, what specifically is wrong with it?


Didn't you read the referenced examples I gave?
NotParker
1.9 / 5 (18) May 03, 2012

I also began noticing years ago that special events up north, such as annual river ice-jam breakups (usually including local lottery estimate contests), were occurring earlier and earlier.


The only one I know about is Nenana.

Earliest breakup 1940 and 1998.

Latest breakup 1964.

I do know the 30s and 40s were awfully warm in Alaska.
Lurker2358
3.3 / 5 (7) May 03, 2012
Of course, the fallacy in their logic is the belief that the speed of a glacier's slippage is directly related to it's melt rate. It isn't.

there can be obstacles such as ridges and giant boulders and stuff in the way under the ice, which can cause it to be hung up and not move quickly.

Additionally, most of the melt water just runs off in efficient channels, and would hardly produce a buoying effect to move the entire glacier at a significantly accelerated rate.

Finally, a 28% to 32% speed up per decade still produces a 9 to 12 times increase in 90 years.
NotParker
1.5 / 5 (17) May 03, 2012

Finally, a 28% to 32% speed up per decade still produces a 9 to 12 times increase in 90 years.


And you are ignoring that it warmed in 20s/30s/40s and got very cold again.

And are projecting into the future. With no evidence.

"They started with the winter of 2000-01 and then repeated the process for each winter from 2005-06 through 2010-11, and found that the outlet glaciers had not increased in velocity as much as had been speculated."

7 winters. Not 10. If only they had published their data ...
gregor1
1.6 / 5 (7) May 04, 2012
I know from previous stories on climate which arguments always ensue. I would like to suggest that anyone who is in conflict about the science visit this page, which features an index of 173 different climate change skeptic statements, each linking to a page explaining, in detail, what is going on in each case:

http://www.skepti...ment.php

Pardon me if this has been previously introduced. If it has then I assume it has also been ignored so as to maintain a position of disbelief.

I was disappointed this site did not address the weird claims that it's all about grant money, and that scientists are too scared to release contrary data. Perhaps they thought it too bizarre.


For a thorough critique of Skepticalscience go here
http://scienceand...ence.pdf
MandoZink
5 / 5 (4) May 04, 2012
For a thorough critique of Skepticalscience go here
http://scienceand...ence.pdf

That was not only very UNthorough, but really bogus. Lubos Motl may be a physicist, but he failed to address any of the actual data presented, and simply stated the same sham arguments.

For example, Item #10, he states: "Antarctica is gaining ice: Cook claims it's not"

That's NOT AT ALL what Cook said! Cook explained very well that the SEA ice around Antarctica, which freezes in winter and thaws in summer, has stayed pretty much the same.
It is the LAND ice in Antarctica, which is much more massive, that is undergoing a dramatic melting.

It would seem Lubos Motl did not bother to even read the evidence, he simply argued what he wanted to believe, which is exactly the mistaken arguments that the http://www.skepti...ment.php website intended to correct.

I agree with SoylentGrin. This is just a "Poisoning the Well" fallacy.
NotParker
1 / 5 (6) May 05, 2012
Cook explained very well that the SEA ice around Antarctica, which freezes in winter and thaws in summer, has stayed pretty much the same.


1) It doesn't all melt. About 2,000,000 square kilometers does not.

2) The trend is up
NotParker
1 / 5 (6) May 05, 2012
Land ice is melting[.q]

East Antarctic is cooling and it has 4x as much ice as West Antarctica.

SkepticalScience is a joke.
kaasinees
1.4 / 5 (11) May 05, 2012
I also began noticing years ago that special events up north, such as annual river ice-jam breakups (usually including local lottery estimate contests), were occurring earlier and earlier.


This might have to do with the moving magnetic north pole.

http://www.nasa.g...eld.html
MandoZink
3.7 / 5 (6) May 05, 2012
This might have to do with the moving magnetic north pole.

Yes. I have often used magnets to draw ice out of the fridge. They are my fridge magnets.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (5) May 05, 2012
This might have to do with the moving magnetic north pole.

Yes. I have often used magnets to draw ice out of the fridge. They are my fridge magnets.

This website really needs an IQ filter or something....
If you do not understand climate dont comment on articles like these.
MandoZink
4.2 / 5 (5) May 05, 2012
This website really needs an IQ filter or something....
If you do not understand climate dont comment on articles like these.

You obviously did not understood that I was making an IQ comment myself, through the beloved art of lampooning. And what proper comic timing it was.

Please explain what in the hell MAGNETIC poles have to do with ice. I think you don't know the difference between magnetic poles, geographic poles and cartographic poles. I do. One of my professions is surveying.

Bear in mind, the earth rotates about the geographic poles. These poles DO change, slowly, over TENS of thousands of years. It is a phenomenon called "axial precession", a common feature of rotating bodies. The earth's axial precession has a cycle of 26,000 years. Precession WILL slowly affect climate - very very slowly.

The magnetic poles change constantly and have NO effect on weather.

I may just print this discussion up and post it on my fridge with my magnets
kaasinees
1.6 / 5 (10) May 05, 2012
Do i really have to explain to you how the magnetic poles affect climate?

And your last post really makes it seem you did not even read the NASA article about the drifting pole.

I can't take you seriously.
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (9) May 05, 2012
Alright i found this article maybe it explains it to you.

http://redicecrea...id=13952
MandoZink
5 / 5 (5) May 05, 2012
And your last post really makes it seem you did not even read the NASA article about the drifting pole.

Okay. Now I'll be serious. I actually DID read the entire article. It was all about the magnetic poles which not only move constantly, they periodically reverse and flip. This takes hundreds of thousands of years, as the article says. As magma slowly oozes from deep seafloor rifts in the earth's crust, it creates new sea floor. The new rock is imprinted with the earth's current magnetic orientation. This has created a pattern of magnetic striations all across the sea floor, which reveals the history of the reversals.

Now for the important part. The earth does NOT rotate about the magnetic poles. It DOES rotate about the geographic poles. The geographic poles SLOWLY change due to "axial precession", which I tried to explain above.

Now, I have two questions:
1. Did YOU even read the article?
2. Does the article say anything relating magnetic poles to climate?

ANS: 1.No 2.No
kaasinees
1.4 / 5 (9) May 05, 2012
You are crazy, i never talked about rotation or anything like that?
Why are you pulling words out of your ass?

Reversals do happen at average 400k years or so.
The last one suposedly was 780k years ago.
What do you think what happens in the middle of a reversal?
We are already a few decades into the reversal(which take 1k years on average), if you think that has no affect on climate whatsoever we are done here anyway.

However magnetic excursions happen more often and arent very pleasent...

http://geology.gs...7/12/584
MandoZink
5 / 5 (4) May 05, 2012
Alright i found this article maybe it explains it to you.

Okay. Look, I am not offended at all by your IQ comment. Your postings here are surely well intended.

Both of your articles are also interesting and correct. What you do not know is the difference between the pole types - magnetic and geographic. One has no effect on weather or climate, the other has a very slow effect on weather/climate over time.

Instead of posting again, I recommend you look this up. I am serious. Here are some links:

First, Geographical pole:
http://en.wikiped...cal_pole
This will initially explain the difference.

Then, Geomagnetic Poles:
http://en.wikiped...tic_Pole
Axial precession:
http://en.wikiped...ecession
Milankovitch cycles(weather related):
http://en.wikiped...h_cycles

Then write back! I know you mean well.
kaasinees
1.3 / 5 (7) May 05, 2012
No i do know the differences between geomagnetic poles and geographic poles.

What you claimed is that the geomagnetic sphere does not affact climate.

another interesting read.
http://oxford.aca..._230Thxs

The effects of a polar reversal is completely unknown.
We DO know that that geomagnetic recursions have a correlation with climate.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (6) May 05, 2012
kaasinees
By the way, the only articles locatable on the web that attempt to show any correlation between magnetic reversals and climate are on doomsday religious sites. They are in no way actual science. I hope that is not what initially mislead you.

If you are basing this on those bogus sites then why are you posting on an actual science site?

Those people DO deserve my "fridge magnet jokes".

MandoZink
5 / 5 (4) May 05, 2012
What you claimed is that the geomagnetic sphere does not affact climate.

Okay. I give up. You obviously didn't read a damned thing, neither my posts OR your own links.

Quit while your behind.
gregor1
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
And yet you rely on a bogus site called skeptical science.
gregor1
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
Again, we'll see the denialists accept the science (they think) will support their position, but dismiss it otherwise.
People who resort to name calling are generally hiding something. Who's the 'denialist" when John Cook on skeptical science denies that Antarctica has been cooling for decades? The data supporting this is real.

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
"It's the sun

http://i51.tinypi...pmb.jpg" - ParkerTard

Odd. You have been claiming for years that the globe is cooling. How is that when your plot shows an increase in sunlight over the same period?

"http://i40.tinypi...yok.jpg" - ParkerTard

Odd. You have been claiming for years that the globe is cooling. How is that when your plot shows an increase in sunlight over the same period?

"http://sunshineho...nshine/" - ParkerTard

Odd. You have been claiming for years that the globe is cooling. How is that when your plot shows an increase in sunlight over the same period?
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (6) May 06, 2012
"Antarctica is gaining ice

http://arctic.atm...ctic.png " - ParkerTard

Why all the lying ParkerTard? Your plot shows sea ice area, not continental ice volume.

Meanwhile the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) estimates Antarctic mass balance changes of between (-40 to -246 Gt/year).

Poor ParkerTard. Caught lying again.
kaasinees
1.8 / 5 (10) May 06, 2012
its common sense that ice area grows a bit when ice volume shrinks, cause the melted ice causes the surrounding water to reach colder temperatures.

It proves that the ice is melting at alarming rate.
ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (7) May 06, 2012
The faster the glaciers move, the more ice and meltwater they release into the ocean. In a previous study, scientists trying to understand the contribution of melting ice to rising sea level in a warming world considered a scenario in which the Greenland glaciers would double their velocity between 2000 and 2010 and then stabilize at the higher speed, and another scenario in which the speeds would increase tenfold and then stabilize.
It astounds me how unbelievably bad this "science" is.

Just because the glaciers are moving faster doesn't mean they're contributing to an increase in ocean volume. It's all about the ablation verses accumulation rate.

Are the glaciers moving faster because they're melting? Or are they moving faster because there's more snow and ice accumulation, which is adding pressure to the glaciers?

Strangely enough, glacier speeds might increase for either reason.

So it's not the glaciers speeds which are important. It's the ice mass gain/loss ratio.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
"The higher velocity of the ice is thought to be related to higher temperatures causing increased melt-water which can penetrate to the base of the glacier and hence reduce the ground friction. However, this accelerated movement is not necessarily tied to an increased rate of melting of the Greenland ice,

...found increased snow accumulation on the top of the interior Greenland ice sheet between 1992 and 2003. ...they estimated an increase of 6.4 ± 0.2 cm/year and below 1500m they observed a decreasing trend of -2.0 ± 0.9 cm/year. Hence, growth in the interior parts and a thinning of the ice nearer the edges."

...again find that the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins (-42 ± 2 Gt/year = -46 ± 2 km3/year below the equilibrium-line altitude ELA), but growing in the inland (+53 ± 2 Gt/year = 58 ± 2 km3/year). ...the Greenland ice has an overall mass gain by +11 ± 3 Gt/year (=10 ± 2.7 km3/year) ...implied a -0.03 mm/year sea level equivalent."

cont...
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
...cont:

"The critical point for Greenland is whether the increased rate of glacier motion more than compensates for the greater accumulation."

http://www.realcl...laciers/

So, we need to ask these questions:

1. Is the ice speed increase a result of increased melt?

2. Is the ice speed increase a result of increased accumulation?

3. Is the ice speed increase a result of both?

4. (most importantly) Is the over all Greenland ice mass gain/loss in balance?

This article answers none of these questions.

NotParker
1 / 5 (6) May 06, 2012
Antarctica is gaining ice


Correct.

"Ice expanding in much of Antarctica Eastern coast getting colder Western section remains a concern

ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.

The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica,"

"East Antarctica is four times the size of west Antarctica and parts of it are cooling. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report prepared for last week's meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington noted the South Pole had shown "significant cooling in recent decades"."

http://www.news.c...00043191

South Pole had shown "significant cooling in recent decades"
MandoZink
5 / 5 (3) May 07, 2012
Nice 3-year old story from Australia. Now here's the latest(April 26, 2012):

Warm Water Shrinking Antarctica's Ice Shelves
http://www.adelai...39203748

"ANTARCTICA'S massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study has found.

That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting."

"As the floating ice shelves melt and thin out, that in turn triggers snow and ice on land glaciers to slide down to the floating shelves and eventually into the sea, which causes a rise in sea level, Mr Pritchard said.

Thicker floating ice shelves usually keep much of the land snow and ice from shedding to sea, but that is not happening now.

That whole process causes larger and faster sea level rise than simply warmer air melting snow on land-locked glaciers, he explained."
MandoZink
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2012
From the latest issue of NATURE (25 April 2012 ):
http://www.nature...968.html

"Antarctic Ice-sheet Loss Driven by Basal Melting of Ice Shelves"

Editor's summary:
"Ice-shelf melting driving Antarctic ice loss

Ice shelves those parts of the ice sheets that extend over the ocean are known to provide a buttressing effect that limits the velocity of upstream glaciers and ice streams. In Antarctica, loss of ice shelves has already been implicated in the accelerated motion of some ice masses, but the extent of ice-shelf wasting remained unknown. Now, Pritchard et al. present a complete survey of Antarctic ice-shelf thinning between 2003 and 2008, and reveal loss rates of up to 7 metres per year. Much of the thinning is attributable to wind-driven movement of warm water through deep troughs crossing the continental shelf. The authors conclude that the thinning has led to loss of buttressing strength and accelerated loss of ice mass."
MandoZink
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2012
Oh gee, another (April 06, 2012):
"Antarctic ice shelf has shrunk by 85pc since 1995"
http://www.herald...20238434
"A VAST ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula, a hotspot for global warming, has shrunk by 85 per cent in 17 years, the European Space Agency (ESA) says."

"Ice shelves are not the same as ice sheets, the vast blankets of frozen water that cover Antarctica.
If these melted, even partially, they would drive up sea levels, threatening small island states and coastal cities."

Now you can add the European Space Agency to that most evil of global money-making liberal anti-capitalist global alarmist conspiracies.

PS - I am sure that 97% of the world's atmospheric climate scientist DID hold a secret meeting to agree on a conspiracy strategy, but I am yet unsure as to WHEN and WHERE. Their ability to completely conceal this meeting only points to the depths of the conspiracy.

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