Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

See a glacier spawn an iceberg in this dramatic video


The moment a giant iceberg measuring 4 miles (6 km) in length broke off from a glacier in Greenland, sending huge chunks of ice crashing into the sea, was captured on camera by a team of scientists.

It only took 30 minutes for an iceberg almost half the size of Manhattan to separate from a glacier in Greenland.

A 2017 estimate indicated that if the entire Western Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed, sea levels would rise about three metres. "Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential", said David Holland, a mathematics professor at New York University.

The event lasted more than 30 minutes, but the movie was compressed to about 90 seconds. That means it would stretch from lower Manhattan to Midtown in New York City, as you can see below.

Denise Holland says understanding how icebergs calve can help scientists create more accurate simulations for predicting the impact of climate change on sea-level rise. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance".

Denise Holland, the logistics co-ordinator for NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Global Sea Level Change, who filmed the calving event, said: "Knowing how and in what ways icebergs calve is important for simulations because they ultimately determine global sea-level rise".

The process by which ice breaks away from a glacier is known as calving. So far, the Thwaites Glacier, a part of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet that has already drained a mass of water that is roughly the size of Great Britain or the state of Florida, has accounted for approximately four percent of global sea-level rise.

Perhaps the most drastic and devastating effect of the sea level rise is that according to experts and satellite surveillance there are many more fractures and breaks going on not only in Greenland but in Antarctica as well, and this is completely certain when these glaciers are looked down from space.

The video shows a tabular (wide and flat) iceberg separate, then travel down the fjord where it smashes into another iceberg. "And here we can see his wonderful significance", notes the study's lead author David Holland, Professor, Institute of mathematics NY. It may also offer a chance to study iceberg calving.

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