Watch the Petermann Crack Get Bigger

Look I know it's horrifying that this past July saw the further disintegration of Greenland's enormous, floating Petermann Glacier, with about 11 square miles of ice crumbling off. In fact, new satellite images show that right now the entire glacier is literally breaking in half, thus speeding up the general trend towards an iceless Arctic Ocean, rising waters, and accelerated climate change. But you have to admit that there's a terrible beauty in seeing 60-square-mile hunks of ice cracking open. Below, an animation shows the crack widening.

This image was made by Ian Howat, with the BYRD Polar Research Center, showing the crack growing over a period of 7 years. Once the crack gets just a little longer, a huge hunk of the Petermann Glacier will drift into the ocean and melt. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The crack is 7 miles long and about half a mile wide. It is about half the width of the 500 square mile floating part of the glacier. Other smaller fractures can be seen in images of the ice tongue, a long narrow sliver of the glacier. "The pictures speak for themselves," said Jason Box, a glacier expert at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University who spotted the changes while studying new satellite images. "This crack is moving, and moving closer and closer to the front. It's just a matter of time till a much larger piece is going to break off.... It is imminent."


Of course an ice-free Arctic could turn Greenland into the center of a new Arctic Circle trade zone. Which might explain why some researchers in the Star Tribune article say there's nothing wrong with a little ice breakup. Northern Greenland Glaciers Showing Fractures [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

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Annalee Newitz

@Grey_Area: Klaatu warns, "I know . . . Kung Fu."