Gallery: Iceberg Twice the Size of Manhattan Breaks Off Greenland Glaci...

NASA image acquired September 7, 2008. NASA image released September 12, 2008. Covering some 1,295 square kilometers (500 square miles) along the northwestern coast of Greenland, Petermann Glacier’s floating ice tongue is the Northern largest,
NASA image acquired September 7, 2008. NASA image released September 12, 2008. Covering some 1,295 square kilometers (500 square miles) along the northwestern coast of Greenland, Petermann Glacier’s floating ice tongue is the Northern Hemisphere’s largest, and it has occasionally calved large icebergs. Between 2000 and 2001, the glacier lost nearly 87 square kilometers (34 square miles). Between July 10 and July 24, 2008, the glacier lost another 29 square kilometers (11 square miles). Researchers at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, however, expressed greater concern at the presence of a rift farther upstream. . The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the rift on the Petermann Glacier on September 7, 2008. The rift, which appeared by 2001, is filled with thin ice and covered with snow in the close-up image (top). A thin fracture near the edge of the rift, however, indicates that it has continued to widen. . After its initial formation, the rift on Petermann Glacier advanced toward the glacier front, widening as it moved. Satellite images from the 1990s show that rifts have developed in this region on the Petermann more than once, but previous rifts evolved differently than this one, which grew wider and longer. Byrd Polar Research Center scientists stated that if this rift extended completely across the glacier, the glacier could lose another 160 square kilometers (60 square miles)—one third of its current length. The larger view (bottom) shows areas of open water along the glacier’s margins, and a profusion of ice fragments beyond the tip of the glacier tongue. As a glacier squeezes past the fjord walls, the interaction of the ice and rock produces backstress that keeps the ice relatively compressed. But as pieces of ice break away from the glacier, the backstress is reduced, and the glacier begins to stretch. The rift on this glacier is evidence of the glacier’s stretching and thinning over time.   NASA images and animation created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument:  Terra - ASTER

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.”

+ University of Delaware


Images:  NASA Goddard Photo and Video


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  1. arkema July 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Greenland was named that for a reason. When it was found it didn’t have ice all over it. If it did they would have named it something like “New Iceland.”

  2. gmacerola July 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    No one cares….Greenland holds…what?…4% of the ice in the world? Antarctica holds 90% and its getting colder….it’ll be news when the place with 90% of the ice gets warmers…and NOT west Antarctica! East Antarctica, where all the ice is

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