Iceberg breaks off glacier in Greenland

James Marshall
July 12, 2018

It broke off from Helheim Glacier in eastern Greenland on June 22 and captured by a team of scientists in real time. This attracted a lot of attention to an extraordinary event, because such data was compared to the distance from the bottom to the middle of Manhattan in NY. An illustrated overlay of the iceberg's dimensions is available here (Credit: Google Earth, Courtesy of Denise Holland):

According to the latest predictions, if the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed it could cause global sea levels to rise by ten feet, overwhelming coastal cities around the world like NY and Abu Dhabi. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance".

Witnessing the phenomenon, also known as calving (the breaking off of large blocks of ice from a glacier), could help create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change, say the researchers.

"Knowing how come icebergs are important for modelling, because the icebergs ultimately determine global sea-level rise. The better we understand what is happening, the more precisely we can predict and plan for climate change", explains an employee at NY University, Denise Holland.

Denise Holland, a research team field manager with NYU, caught the eye-opening occurrence on video, which condenses 30 minutes of activity down to about 90 seconds.

A massive iceberg that was part of a Greenland glacier has collapsed, leading to increased exposure of glacier ice to the ocean. As it does so, thin and tall icebergs-also known as pinnacle bergs-calve off and flip over.

The video shows a tabular (wide and flat) iceberg separate, then travel down the fjord where it smashes into another iceberg. It may also offer a chance to study iceberg calving.

A 2017 estimate suggested that a collapse of the entire the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would result in a 10-foot-rise in sea level.

Perhaps the most drastic and devastating effect of the sea level rise is that according to experts and satellite surveillance there are many more fractures and breaks going on not only in Greenland but in Antarctica as well, and this is completely certain when these glaciers are looked down from space. Such events could help researchers understand how glaciers will respond to natural variability and human-induced changes.

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