View From Space: Huge Piece of Glacier Breaks Off Greenland


A huge ice island four times the size of Manhattan– and half as thick as the Empire State Building is tall– has broken off from one of Greenland’s two main glaciers. On August 5, 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, roughly 97 square miles (251 square kilometers) in size, broke off the Petermann Glacier, along the northwestern coast of Greenland. Satellite images, like this one from NASA’s Aqua satellite show the glacier lost about one-quarter of its 70-kilometer (40-mile) long floating ice shelf. Located a thousand kilometers south of the North Pole, the now-separate ice island contains enough fresh water to keep public tap water in the United States flowing for 120 days, said scientists from the University of Delaware who have been monitoring the break.

While thousands of icebergs detach from Greenland’s glaciers every year, the last time one this large formed was in 1962. The flow of sea water beneath Greenland’s glaciers is a main cause of ice detaching from them.

This movie made from another satellite — Envisat from the European Space Agency – shows the giant iceberg breaking off.

Time-series animation based on Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) data from 31 July, 4 August, and 7 August 2010 showing the breaking of the Petermann glacier and the movement of the new iceberg towards Nares Strait. Credits: ESA

The animation above was created by combining three Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) acquisitions (31 July, 4 August and 7 August 2010) taken over the same area. The breaking of the glacier tongue and the movement of the iceberg can be clearly seen in this sequence.

The Petermann glacier is one of the largest glaciers connecting the Greenland inland ice sheet with the Arctic Ocean. Upon reaching the sea, a number of these large outlet glaciers extend into the water with a floating ‘ice tongue’.
The ice tongue of the Petermann glacier was the largest in Greenland. This tide-water glacier regularly advances towards the ocean at about 1 km per year. During the previous months, satellite images revealed that several cracks had appeared on the glacier surface, suggesting to scientists that a break-up event was imminent.

Scientists say it’s hard to tell if global warming caused the event. Records on the glacier and sea water below have only been kept since 2003. The first six months of 2010 have been the hottest globally on record.

Sources: NASA, ESA

14 Replies to “View From Space: Huge Piece of Glacier Breaks Off Greenland”


    Actually, it’s a parrot, and the AGW deniers will be saying: “It’s not dead, it’s resting.”

  2. “Enormous chuck of ice breaks off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland.”

    How much ice would the climate chuck chuck if the climate chuck would chuck ice?

  3. “It is an ex-glacie,r it rests in peace, it has rung down the curtain, it has joined the choir invisble” etc etc.

  4. “It is an ex-glacier, it rests in peace, it has rung down the curtain, it has joined the choir invisble” etc etc.

  5. My wife and I decided not to have children that would have to live through this crap – so to the next 10 generations….. WOOPS Sorry!

    In a thousand or two years it’ll ice all back up again and be all better.
    I hear the Sahara will be prime real estate soon!

  6. let’s see: massive fires near Moscow, 2003 over 30,000 deaths from a heat wave in France, floods in Pakistan, India, China & SE Asia affecting more people than the tsunami & Haitian earthquake combined, the breakoff from the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica in Oct 2003 of a glacier as large as Rhode Island, the failure of the wheat harvest in Russia stopping their export of any wheat to the world market, etc., etc.
    I doubt that humans will do much and certainly not soon enough so get ready for a different kind of Armageddon than the born-again folks expect. Having no kids, it won’t be my problem, but I wonder if those with grandkids care much.

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