Iceberg breaks off glacier in Greenland

Mindy Sparks
July 10, 2018

In real time, it took 30 minutes for an iceberg four miles long to break off and float away into the sea.

It only took 30 minutes for an iceberg almost half the size of Manhattan to separate from a glacier in Greenland. One such example is a monumental chunk of ice breaking off a glacier and washing into sea, something dramatically captured on video by a team of scientists in eastern Greenland last week. That means it would stretch from lower Manhattan to Midtown in New York City, as you can see below. An illustrated overlay of the iceberg's dimensions is available here (Credit: Google Earth, Courtesy of Denise Holland): "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance".

A team of scientists from New York University caught a stunning sight on video when they witnessed an iceberg breaking away from a glacier.

The vast piece of ice that breaks away is described as a tabular iceberg because it is wide and flat. As it does so, thin and tall icebergs-also known as pinnacle bergs-calve off and flip over. The camera angle then shifts to show movement further down the fjord, where one tabular iceberg crashes into a second, causing the first to split into two and flip over. It may also offer a chance to study iceberg calving.

Earth's biggest glaciers are in frozen Antarctica, and their breakup would be catastrophic for sea level rise; the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would release enough water to raise global sea levels by almost 10 feet (3 meters).

A new video - captured by a team of New York University researchers and shared online this week - shows the dramatic calving event. The grant is part of the newly announced $25-million International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, headed by the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council and the National Science Foundation, which will deploy scientists to gather the data needed to understand whether the glacier's collapse could begin in the next few decades or next few centuries.

The research is being carried by NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Global Sea Level Change-both directed by David Holland.

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