Massive Iceberg Breaks Loose From Greenland’s Petermann Glacier

An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off of one of Greenland’s largest glaciers in a move that has been predicted for almost a year.

The iceberg, which broke off of the northerly Petermann Glacier sometime on Monday, has been watched for several years, as a large crack began to form and grow wider in the floating ice shelf. NASA satellites confirmed the break, saying that the newly formed iceberg measures a staggering 46 square miles, according to ABC News.

Although the newest iceberg is massive, the same glacier spawned an iceberg twice its size in 2010. While researchers are suspecting that global warming is to blame for the massive loss of arctic ice, they are unable to conclusively prove the theory.

While several of Greenland’s southern glaciers are melting more rapidly than before, people like government scientist Ted Scambos are acknowledging that this latest break brings large ice loss much farther north.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Jason Box, a scientist with Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center, has been monitoring the Petermann Glacier. In September 2011, he predicted that warmer weather would cause the glacier to sever along a crack that had been growing for some time.

At the time, Box stated, “We can see the crack widening in the past year through satellite pictures, so it seems imminent.”

Andreas Muenchow, an associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, stated that, while the newly formed iceberg is not as huge as its 2010 predecessor, its break off has moved the massive glacier farther inland than it has been for 150 years.

While it is perfectly normal for a glacier to birth (or calve) icebergs, if the process is sped up, it can have bad consequences. Muenchow explained, according to The Christian Science Monitor, that the ice shelves (floating ends) of glaciers act as doorstops for the glacier.

When they suddenly splinter and weaken, or even sometimes collapse completely, the glaciers they have been halting move faster. These glaciers end up dumping an excess of ice into the ocean, raising global sea levels in the process. Muenchow stated that:

“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.”

Check out the video below to see more information about the Petermann Glacier’s evolution in Greenland: