Greenland glacier calves enormous ice island

Petermann Glacier ice island: Map supplied by Andreas Muenchow.
Petermann Glacier ice island: Map supplied by Andreas Muenchow.Courtesy Public domain
A massive chunk of ice - 100 square miles of it – broke away from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier last week. The ice island is about 500 feet thick and contains enough fresh water to supply our entire nation’s tap water demands for 4 months and then some.

Just what the free-floating slab of ice will do next is anyone’s guess. Some scientist, such as Andreas Muenchow, a professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware are concerned it could get wedged in by actual islands dotting the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada and jam up shipping lanes there.

"The newly born ice island may become land-fast, block the channel, or it may break into smaller pieces as it is propelled south by the prevailing ocean currents,” Muenchow said. “From there, it will likely follow along the coasts of Baffin Island and Labrador, to reach the Atlantic within the next two years."

A similar, huge slab of ice broke away from Greenland’s Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in 1962, and pieces of it became stuck in channel islands in the Nares Strait which is located about 600 miles south of the North Pole.

Muenchow has been keeping a watchful eye on the Petermann Glacier for the past several years and said he was expecting a calving to take place because the ice shelf had been growing. However, he wasn’t expecting one so large.

Although recent trends show a rise in global temperatures, Muenchow stops short of blaming the ice slab on climate change. "Nobody can claim this was caused by global warming. On the other hand nobody can claim that it wasn't," he said.

The Petermann Glacier is an ice shelf situated in northern Greenland covering an area of about 40 miles. The new ice island amounts to about twenty-five percent of the ice sheet. The following video from last summer shows why scientists were expecting last week’s event.

CNN story
Canadian Ice Service page
Story on Yahoo
Nares Strait Meteorological Modeling page

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

peacekeeperhippie's picture
peacekeeperhippie says:

I think it's just terrible. This proves to all global warming denialists that climate change is a real issue! 5 billion tons of ice? That is an impressive number! Do you realize how much dinosaurs it would take to even equal the amount of ice and snow now floating out to sea?

posted on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 10:32am

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