Greenland glacier sheds huge chunk of ice

Jakobshavn, the world’s fastest-moving glacier, loses 12.5 square km of ice in one of the most significant calving events on record.

25th August 2015
Jakobshavn glacier calving (Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA)

Jakobshavn glacier calving (Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA)

If you’re planning to set sail towards the western shores of Greenland in the near future then keep an eye out for icebergs, as there could be a whopper heading your way.

Images from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Sentinal-1A satellite captured before and after scenes following a massive calving event of the Jakobshavn glacier, which occurred between the 14- 16 August, where it is estimated an enormous 17.5km3 of ice was lost. That’s enough to cover the whole of Manhattan Island under 300m of ice, and now the new face of the glacier is now so far inland that it is the most easterly since records began in the mid-1880s.

Around 10% of Greenland’s icebergs come from the Jakobshavn glacier, which equates to 35 billion tonnes of ice every year, but then when the glacier moves at 46m a day it is not as surprising that so much is lost. In fact there is speculation that this glacier produced the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

Satellites have long been a great source for watching glaciers melt, but the ESA’s Copernicus programme looks particularly promising thanks to Sentinel-1A’s day-and-night radar imaging, which essentially means it can see through clouds to measure ice movements, vital for the safety of seafarers and maritime explorers in the area.

So is there anything we could do to halt the rapid movement of the glacier? Maybe it just needs a lick of paint…

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