Less than two years after it made headlines for losing a piece of ice four times the size of Manhattan, the Petermann glacier that covers four-fifths of Greenland, is making headlines again, for losing another large chunk to the sea.
The July 17th, 2012 ice break that measures about 46 square miles did not come as a total surprise, since scientists had been observing the crack near the tip of the northern part of the glacier for a number of years.
However, while icebergs calving off the Northern Hemisphere's largest glacier are not an unusual event, it is the frequency and the size of chunks that is getting environmentalists concerned. The 2010 break was the largest one on record since 1962, and while the latest one is smaller in comparison, it is still a sizeable piece of ice.
While some believe this is a direct result of global warming others, are not so sure. Ohio State University ice scientist Ian Howat, thinks that it could be just normal calving, especially given that the recent piece that broke off was jutting out into the water, similar to an overgrown nail. But he too agrees that if the glacier continues to lose chunks of this size, it would prove beyond doubt that global warming is indeed to blame.
The one thing that does concern all scientists is the impact the recent ice loss will have on the large portion of the Petermann glacier that happens to be situated on land. That's because unlike the one that broke off in 2010, this one was situated much further inland right up against the fjords rock side wall. Therefore, it effectively stopped the acceleration of the Petermann glacier's movement toward the sea. Now that it is gone, experts wonder if the glacier will start to melt at an even more rapid pace.
The one positive thing is that since the piece that broke was already in the sea, it will not raise the ocean level (think ice melting in a glass of water). However, this fear could become a reality if the land based Petermann ice chunks start to melt.
Meanwhile, just like the large piece that broke off in 2010, the 46 square-mile iceberg is slowly making its way North. Scientists believe that just like the other one, it will most likely break up into little pieces and head West, before settling down in Newfoundland, where it will hopefully refreeze.
Resources: csmonitor.com, yahoo.com