A massive chunk of ice twice the size of Manhattan just broke off from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, which is one of the two largest glaciers left in the country. The ice island was part of a major ice shelf (connecting the great Greenland ice sheet with the ocean) that has waned in past years due to the region’s warming climate. The event was reported by Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment in his “Icy Seas” blog.
The iceberg is reportedly 46 square miles (120 square km), which makes it about half the size of the massive ice calving that occurred at the same glacier two years ago. That ‘iceberg’ was reportedly FOUR times the size of Manhattan.
“While the size is not as spectacular as it was in 2010, the fact that it follows so closely to the 2010 event brings the glacier’s terminus to a location where it has not been for at least 150 years,” Muenchow said a statement. “The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as the result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and atmosphere.”
In his report, Muenchow also stated that the air around northern Greenland and Ellesmere Island had warmed by about 0.11 +/- 0.025 degrees Celsius per year since 1987. “Northwest Greenland and northeast Canada are warming more than five times faster than the rest of the world,” Muenchow says, “but the observed warming is not proof that the diminishing ice shelf is caused by this, because air temperatures have little effect on this glacier; ocean temperatures do, and our ocean temperature time series are only five to eight years long — too short to establish a robust warming signal.”
Don’t be worried that this iceberg will come crashing into New York any time soon. According to Muenchow, it will follow the path of the 2010 ice island until it enters Nares Strait, the deep channel between northern Greenland and Canada, where it likely will get broken up.
“This is definitely déjà vu,” Muenchow says. “The first large pieces of the 2010 calving arrived last summer on the shores of Newfoundland, but there are still many large pieces scattered all along eastern Canada from Lancaster Sound in the high Arctic to Labrador to the south.”
Images: NASA Goddard Photo and Video