Greenland Glacier Calves Another Huge Ice Island

Petermann glacier, a 70 km (43 mile) long tongue of ice that flows into the Arctic Ocean in northwest Greenland, recently calved an “ice island” approximately 130 square kilometers (50 sq. miles) — about twice the area of Manhattan. The image above, acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the ice island as it drifts toward the ocean five days after breaking off the main glacier.

Petermann glacier has been known for birthing massive ice islands; previously in August 2010 an even larger island broke away from the glacier, measuring 251 square kilometers (97 sq. miles). That slab of ice eventually drifted into the northern Atlantic and was even visible from the Space Station a year later!

Read: Manhattan-Sized Ice Island Seen From Space

Although some of Greenland’s glaciers have been observed to be quickening their seaward pace as a result of global warming, this particular calving event — which occurred along a crack that appeared in 2001 satellite imagery — isn’t thought to be a direct result of climate but rather of ocean currents and isn’t expected to have any significant effect on the rate of Greenland’s ice loss as a whole. Still, satellite observation of such events provides valuable data for researchers monitoring the processes that are involved with rapidly accelerating Arctic ice loss.

And if you want an idea of what a slab of ice this large looks like up close, here’s a video taken by researchers on approach to a smaller chunk of the 2011 island:

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using data from NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. (NASA/Terra)

17 Replies to “Greenland Glacier Calves Another Huge Ice Island”

  1. I read last month some articles about the rapid increase in methane release from hydrates and permafrost. The year 2015 is being cast about as the tipping point year.

    This is how our world ends.


    1. i read this recently in tony clarke’s book, “tar sands showdown: canada and the new politics of oil in an age of climate change”:

      “new research is raising disturbing concerns that the warming of the
      north through greenhouse gas emissions may be triggering a
      self-perpetuating climate time bomb trapped in the permafrost. according
      to results of a 2008 study published by nature, the thawing of the
      permafrost releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a rate that
      is five times faster than anticipated. as thawed permafrost releases
      greenhouse gases, which, in turn, trap more heat in the atmosphere, more
      permafrost thaws, creating a continuous self-perpetuating cycle, “the
      higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more
      tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle,” said chris field,
      director of global ecology at the carnegie institution in washington,

      “in the summer of 2008, the journal science published a study showing
      that one kind of carbon trapped in the permafrost, called yedoma, is
      much more prevalent than originally thought and may amount to 100 times
      the volume of carbon released into the air each year by the burning of
      fossil fuels”

      if we are to be worthy of the proud self-appointed name, homo sapiens, perhaps we ought to reconsider how we are treating the natural systems that sustain life as we know it on this our one and only home. if we do not, then i believe it’s time for a name change. something along the lines of homo hubris, homo ignoramus, or homo deleterious would be more appropriate.

      1. Any life form has evolved to maximize its ability to exploit its environment. Intelligent life puts a new spin on this. Most species of life are limited by the functioning of their environment. However, our species is able to figure how to short circuit any limit the environment might impose. As a result we can maximize our exploitation of the environment with no upper limit in sight, so far. However, the upper limit we may face is when we have exhausted the environment’s capacity to support us.

        The release of methane CH_4 from clathrates and permafrost will result in a positive feedback situation. The only limit will be due to the short life of CH_4 in the atmosphere. However, CH_4 is a much more potent IR scattering and trapping gas than CO_2. This could result in a huge spike in temperatures by the end of this century. This will be coupled with the peak out in our resource base of energy and materials. A rule of thumb appears to be that a 1C increase in temperature means a 10% decline in food production. It looks as if E.O. Wilson’s thesis concerning the bottleneck our species faces is coming pretty soon.


    2. Yes indeed! Canadian tundra is being ripped for oil and pipelines, isn’t it? Among other places, of course. Always money. Money above everything. Well, sleep tight everyone.

      I have a “friend” who STILL won’t accept that global warming is man made. “It’s the sun varying, natural cycle”. He calls himself an electronics engineer, too.

      Australia has a “carbon tax” to try to put a penalty on CO2 emissions, but people HATE it because of the word tax and the opposition have sold them on abolishing it. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

    3. So it’s 2015, not 2012?

      Which people responsible for it we should strategically assassinate? We could also use weapons of mass destruction hidden in Afghanistan. Do you have a plan to survive?

      1. I am less concerned about my own personal survival than I am with the survival of my children. I figure it will not be for at least several more decades before this start to get life threatening. By then I will probably be an old codger.
        I advise young people to think about becoming serious about gardening, urban agriculture, permaculture and so forth. Have greater control over your food supply might be a good start towards dealing with issues coming at us.

      2. What kind of guns do you recommend? Do you train them in any martial arts? How would you protect your garden?

      3. I think the best way to survive is to have a network or community of people who are engaged in similar activities. Neighbors and friends are strongly advised. To be honest you might have to give out food as well once things start to get bad. However, that will more likely insure survival than armed violence.
        Unfortunately we are in an age where violence is seen as a solution to problems. All those decades of violent TV programming have probably had their impact.

      4. I will be curious to see how rapidly evolving technologies might be employed towards eventually ‘engineering our climate.’ The question in my mind is whether the rate of technological progress can match the potentially massive changes we will see if global warming in fact makes great parts of the world uninhabitable. I would submit that overall conservation can only help give us more time towards a potential solution. I also submit that living in Buffalo NY as I do will turn out to be an unexpected great bet as our winters continue to ease and we enjoy comfortably hot summers like this one, and sitting on a great lake. There may be an exodus back to the northeast ‘rust belt’ and away from the dry hot US states that may run out of water.

    4. Where did you hear about 2015 as the tipping point year? And the tipping point for what specifically?

      1. This article is interesting, and it approaches being of peer review quality.
        My only caveat is that I am not a climatologist, so I can’t pull through all the details with certainty.
        The tipping point is when climate heating increases even if we were to suddenly stop producing CO_2. We might then have to try something like climate engineering. That could be a complete crap shoot as to whether it really works.

  2. Besides the anti-scientific hype (the world will go on, albeit our society will suffer needlessly) and conspiracy theory (no conspiracies behind predicting climate tipping points) these types of climate extreme events do indicate the GW part of AGW science. As the temperature increases (climate signal) the extreme events (climate noise) has observably gone from a 50/50 hot/cold event ratio to a 70/30 ratio.

    Today the big news is that in 4 days the Greenland satellites went from observing ~ 40 % surface ice melting to virtually 100 % melting. It is unprecedented and nobody knows why, taking the term “extreme” to the, well, extreme.

  3. Not to worry… it’s all part of the ‘plan’. Don’t you know that our hominid ancestors had their DNA molecules encoded with instruction sets that are now being ‘unraveled’? Yeah… ‘The Mentor’s’ have returned and they want their planet back. Milena ago they ‘gave’ us genetic memory in our DNA that when unraveled causes mankind to take actions that will lead to our extinction. Then they simply come back and harvest the elements we’ve dug up for them… ~@; )

  4. Wow did the climate-change deniers melt away with the ice? By now there would have been about 80 comments on a UT story like this.

  5. Global warming denialists now say the SUN is to blame.
    Therefore, it’s the way GOD wants it to be.
    Therefore, to do anything to combat is would be a SIN!

    Meanwhile, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, during a recent speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, had THIS to say about global warming: “We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move… crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.” He added that his company had set out to educate the “illiterate” public as to the facts, and move them away from the purveyors of “manufactured fear.”

    And YES, the human species IS pretty adaptable, thanks to our technology and ability to travel. The other species we share this planet with? Not so much. And those links in our ecological chain WILL begin to weaken and fail. But I’m sure Mr. Tillerson finds it reassuring that he won’t have to worry about it too much during HIS lifetime:

    1. +1.

      I contend that our morality as a species, or others species towards other species, do not yet extend outside of our extended family (family, pets). However, we will likely grow the family as time goes on.

      And of course we can take responsibility anyway. Who else can do it for us?

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