Massive Iceberg Twice the Size of Manhattan Breaks Off of Greenland Glacier

By Chelsea Whyte on July 17, 2012 9:30 PM EDT

petermann glacier
A huge ice island calves off the Petermann Glacier in 2010, and this week another massive chunk broke away from the same spot. (Photo: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan calved off one of Greenland's largest glaciers this week, an event that was predicted by scientists last Autumn.

The humongous ice island is 46 square miles and separated from the Petermann Glacier. Two years ago, another massive iceberg broke away from the same spot - that one was nearly twice as big and was one of the largest ever recorded in Greenland.

"While the size is not as spectacular as it was in 2010, the fact that it follows so closely to the 2010 event brings the glacier's terminus to a location where it has not been for at least 150 years," said Andreas Muenchow, an associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware. That means the front end of the glacier is farther inland than has been in a half-century. 

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"The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as the result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and atmosphere," Muenchow said.

Jason Box, a scientist with Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, has been monitoring the Petermann Glacier, and in September 2011, he told The Christian Science Monitor that once warmer summer weather came this year, the berg would break away from the glacier.

"We can see the crack widening in the past year through satellite pictures, so it seems imminent," Box said at the time.

Muenchow, who credits the Canadian Ice Service for first noticing the fracture, said the discovery was confirmed by re-analyzing data from NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, reports UPI.

Muenchow said the ice island will likely become a slow-moving "floating taxi" for polar bears, seals and other marine life until it enters Nares Strait, the deep channel between northern Greenland and Canada, where it likely will break up, according to USA Today.

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