September 2, 2011
Next Giant Ice Island Poised To Break Free From Greenland
Researcher Alun Hubbard, of the Center for Glaciology at Aberystwyth University said he was rendered “speechless” when a glacier about twice the size of Manhattan he and his team have been tracking appeared close to breaking off, reports MSNBC.
In 2009, scientists installed GPS masts on the Petermann Glacier to track its movement and in August of last year, the “calving” event of the glacier, where it separates itself from land, began following the tides around Greenland. The resulting debate on climate change caused a hearing in Congress.
Returning in July of this year, researchers found the ice had been melting at an unexpected 16-and-a-half feet in two years and found that some of the masts stuck into the glacier were no longer in position.
Hubbard, working with Jason Box, of Ohio State University, and others, were still trying to work out how fast the glacier was moving and the effect on the ice sheet feeding the glacier.
“Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless,” Hubbard said in the statement.
“I´m very familiar with the glacier. It´s very hard to sort of envisage something so big not being there ... to come back and basically see an ice shelf has disappeared, which is 12 miles ... I was speechless and started laughing because I couldn´t sort of believe it.”
Hubbard said the large rift, dubbed “The Big Kahuna,” was becoming larger and he was cautious about predicting when it would create a new vast ice island, but said it could happen “maybe next year, something like that.”
The floating island of ice contains enough water to keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for two years or to provide the entire US with tap water for 120 days, Andreas Muenchow, professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, told MSNBC's Ian Johnston.
“Expect more”, Hubbard says. Another sheet, about half the size of the 2010 chunk, is poised to break away.
Jason Box, a scientist with the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University and photographer of the 2009 image, told Huffington Post that the summer of 2010 was Greenland´s warmest on record, and records have been kept since 1873.
“We´re bearing witness to abrupt climate change,” explains Box, “This isn´t of in the future. It´s very much now.”
Image Caption: Before and after images of Petermann Glacier. Credit: Jason Box/Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University and Alun Hubbard/Aberystwyth University, Wales
On the Net:
- Center for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University
- Ohio State University
- University of Delaware
- Byrd Polar Research Center