“Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the breakup, which rendered me speechless,” said Dr Alun Hubbard upon viewing pictures which illustrate just how quickly the Petermann Glacier in Greenland has retreated in just two years.
Located in North-West Greenland the Petermann Glacier accounts for six percent of the area of the Greenland Ice Sheet measuring in at over 300 kilometres in length. It terminates as a long floating tongue of ice that measures approximately 70 kilometres in length and 20 kilometres in width. It is the largest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.
With joint support from the US National Science Foundation and the Natural Environment Research Council here in the UK, Dr Hubbard, from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, travelled by helicopter to the glacier to gather data from time lapse cameras and GPS sensors that had been set up between July and August in 2009 with the assistance of Greenpeace.
The sensors had been set up in anticipation of a large ice area detachment that eventually took place on August the 3rd, 2010.
“It was incredible to see,” said Hubbard. “This glacier is huge, 20km wide and over 600m thick & hemmed in by sheer cliffs that rise to 1000m on either side. It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it’s full of water.”
“What the breakup means in terms of inland ice acceleration and draw-down of the ice sheet remains to be seen, but will be revealed by the GPS data recovered, which we are now processing at Aberystwyth,” he added.
Source: Aberystwyth University
Image Source: Jason Box Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University and Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, Wales