Last updated July 23, 2018 at 1:45 pm
A gigantic iceberg has been caught on camera breaking away from a glacier in Greenland.
A team of scientists has captured on video the terrifying moment a 6.4 kilometre-wide iceberg breaks away from a glacier in eastern Greenland.
The breaking off of icebergs, known as calving, is one of the forces behind global sea-level rise.
“Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential,” said David Holland, who led the research team from New York University.
“By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance.”
Consequences for sea-level rise
“Knowing how and in what ways icebergs calve is important for simulations because they ultimately determine global sea-level rise,” adds Denise Holland, who works in the NYU team and filmed the calving event. “The better we understand what’s going on means we can create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change.”
The calving event began on 22 June at 11:30 p.m. local time and took place over approximately 30 minutes.
The video shows a wide and flat iceberg, called a tabular iceberg, calve off and move along the fjord. As it moves away from the glacier, thin and tall icebergs – known as pinnacle bergs – also calve off and flip over. The camera then shifts down the fjord, where one tabular iceberg crashes into a second, causing the first to split into two and flip over.
“The range of these different iceberg formation styles helps us build better computer models for simulating and modeling iceberg calving,” said Holland.
Glacier calving contributes to sea-level rise much the same way as dropping an ice cube into a drink – drop the ice in and the level increases. In the case of glaciers calving icebergs, it’s a very violent, very dramatic process, that increases the sea level very abruptly.
A 2017 estimate suggested that a collapse of the entire the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would result in a 3-metre-rise in sea level – enough to overwhelm coastal areas around the globe.
Thwaites Glacier, part of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, has already drained a mass of water that is roughly the size of Great Britain or Florida. This melt has accounted for approximately 4 percent of global sea-level rise, say the researchers.
Video courtesy of NYU and Denise Holland