Giant Floating Ice Sheet From Petermann Glacier Breaks In Two


Satellite image of ice sheet breaking in half.

Sept. 10, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – The giant 100 square mile ice block that broke off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland last month has severed into two giant pieces after colliding with Joe Island, a small rocky outcrop in the Nares Strait, west of Greenland.

The two separate ice blocks are still both larger than Manhattan island and combined could provide enough fresh drinking water to serve the entire U.S. demands for 120 days.

The original ice block had wedged up against Joe Island for about a week, where ocean currents and strong winds continued to push it into the rocky outcropping. These forces eventually caused the block to severe into two smaller, yet still giant, pieces.

As the two ice blocks migrate south, it is expected they will threaten shipping lanes and eventually make their way to the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador in two or three years.

Although the breaking up of the ice block is a dramatic occurrence, researchers from the University of Delaware who are studying the original event on the Petermann Glacier, are more concerned with the causes of the initial break as well as the effects on the Greenland ice sheet, in general. 

“Because you’re changing the balance of forces by removing a large piece, what will happen next is that it will probably start moving forward faster than it has been before because it has to find a new equilibrium,” warned Andreas Muenchow, an associate professor at the University of Delaware.

Scientists are concerned the dramatic break on the Petermann Glacier and the overall shrinking of Greenland’s ice sheets are a result of climate change and that we are likely to see more dramatic events like these in the future.

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