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HUGE ALASKA GLACIER HALTS SEAWARD SURGE

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Alaska's huge Bering Glacier, which had been surging southward toward the Pacific Ocean as fast as 300 feet a day, has finally stopped its rush to the sea.

"It's now about five miles from the ocean," said Bruce Molnia, deputy chief of the office of international geology at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va. "It's remarkable."The world's largest surging glacier advanced more than six miles south between October 1993 and July 1994, reversing 25 years of northward retreat. It has surged at least five times this century, pushed forward by water pressure building underneath the ice.

"It's the largest, it's the most aggressive surge that's occurred since 1960," said Dennis Trabant, a USGS glacier scientist in Fairbanks. "What has happened at Bering is world-class speed. Very few people will live to see the next one."

Molnia and Trabant offered two of more than a dozen Bering Glacier presentations Tuesday at the American Geological Union's fall meeting.

At 125 miles long and more than 2,300 square miles wide, the Bering Glacier is bigger than Rhode Island. Its ice is up to a half-mile thick in places.

The glacier sits along the south coast of Alaska, halfway between Juneau and Anchorage. It has shrunk 40 square miles this century and has thinned by as much as 600 feet, Molnia said.

As it advanced, the glacier bulldozed rocks, soil and vegetation, overran lakes and islands and threw off icebergs into a lake along its leading edge.