Monday, August 9, 2010

Massive Ice Island Breaks Off From Greenland Glacier

Scientists announced this past Friday that on Thursday, August 5, 2010 a massive island of ice four times the size of Manhattan broke off from one of the two main glaciers belonging to Greenland.  This is the biggest event of this kind in almost 50 years.  The massive island of ice will enter the Nares Straight between Greenland and Canada.  The ice island is as thick as half the height of the Empire State Building and has an area of 100 square miles. 

Andreas Muenchow, a professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware said he expected a portion of ice to break off from the Petermann Glacier but he didn't believe the portion would be so large.  The glacier was one of the two largest remaining glaciers in Greenland and had been growing in size for seven or eight years. 

Muenchow says the fresh water in the island could keep the Delaware or Hudson Rivers flowing for more than two years or keep all public tap water in the United States flowing for 120 days.

Questions have been raised as to whether or not global warming has played a hand in the breaking off of this massive chunk of ice.  As records of the sea water around the glacier have only been kept since 2003, Muenchow said, "Nobody can claim this was caused by global warming.  On the other hand, nobody can claim that it wasn't."

This isn't the first chunk of ice to break off Greenland this year.  In July, a piece of ice roughly one-eighth the size of Manhattan island fell from Greenland's Jakobshaven Isbrae glacier.

Muenchow speculates the ice island could do one of three things:  fuse to land, break up into smaller pieces or slowly move south and block shipping routes.

For more information and to see a photograph of the ice island, you can check out this article at

For further information about the ice that fell from the Jakobshaven Isbrae glacier, and to see photos from NASA, you can read this article.

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