Arctic ice island 'poses no immediate threat'

August 12, 2010
A satellite image of the Petermann Glacier taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on August 5. The largest ice island in almost 50 years poses no immediate threat as it will take up to two years to drift through the Arctic Ocean, the Canadian who discovered it told AFP on Wednesday.

The largest ice island in almost 50 years poses no immediate threat as it will take up to two years to drift through the Arctic Ocean, the Canadian who discovered it told AFP.

Trudy Wohlleben, a forecaster from the Canadian Ice Service, spotted the massive slab of ice that broke off a glacier in Greenland last week as she analyzed raw data from a NASA satellite.

At about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) long and 10 kilometers wide, the is about four times the size of Manhattan and experts say the last time the Arctic lost such a large chunk was in 1962.

Wohlleben played down fears the giant would pose an immediate threat to oil platforms or shipping lanes, saying it would first have to navigate a series of small islands in the Nares Strait.

It is likely to get broken down into smaller chunks before it reaches the shipping lanes off the Labrador Coast in Newfoundland, she said, and could even become lodged in a channel or stuck to land.

"In the next one to two years it could reach the east coast of Canada," she told AFP, explaining that unlike in the days when the Titanic sank in 1912, ships now have the latest to warn them of dangerous icebergs.

of the area show that the Petermann glacier lost about one-quarter of floating ice-shelf. The phenomenon is known as "ice calving."

"On August 3, it was not there. Then the clouds prevented pictures from being taken, and on Thursday August 5 I saw it in the morning," Wohlleben recounted.

The Petermann glacier is one of Greenland's two largest that end in floating shelves and connects the Danish territory's ice sheet directly with the ocean.

Scientists have said that while global warming probably contributed to the break, ocean currents and Arctic winds could also be responsible.

Wohlleben refused to be drawn on the climate debate.

"It is hard to say," she told AFP. "There are just so many factors that could play a role."

Paal Prestrud, the head of the climate research group Cicero, said warmer waters likely caused the block of ice to break away, but added: "It's difficult to say for sure it's due to global warming.

"But you see the same things happening all around Greenland, ice shelves breaking up, the outletting glaciers are increasing their speed and retreating faster and faster, and the total mass of ice is decreasing."

Explore further: Greenland glacier calves island four times the size of Manhattan

Related Stories

Melting glacier worries scientists

July 25, 2005

Scientists monitoring a Greenland glacier have found it is moving into the sea three times faster than a decade ago, The Independent reported Monday.

Recommended for you

New Amazon threat? Deforestation from mining

October 18, 2017

Sprawling mining operations in Brazil are destroying much more of the iconic Amazon forest than previously thought, says the first comprehensive study of mining deforestation in the world's largest tropical rainforest.

Scientists determine source of world's largest mud eruption

October 17, 2017

On May 29, 2006, mud started erupting from several sites on the Indonesian island of Java. Boiling mud, water, rocks and gas poured from newly-created vents in the ground, burying entire towns and compelling many Indonesians ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.