A 113 square kilometre ice sheet (70 square miles) has snapped off of the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Glacier, in northeast Greenland, according to satellite images. Researchers believe the collapse of the ice sheet is due to the increasingly warm temperatures that Greenland is experiencing as a result of global warming.
Last year was the hottest year for Greenland on record and the Arctic is warming at almost twice the rate of the global average.
The Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier, or 79N as it is known in the science community, is around 70 kilometres in length and 20 kilometres, or 1,400 square kilometres, is the largest remaining ice sheet, but it is crumbling away at a rapid rate.
Since 1999, it has lost an area twice the size of Manhattan and the crumbling of it is accelerating.
The breaking of the ice sheet is yet another reminder that climate change is taking a huge toll on the planet.
Dr Niels J. Korsgaard, a researcher at The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), said: “When you observe large parts of an ice shelf breaking off you do raise an eyebrow, but with current developments in the Arctic there is also the realisation that this is to be expected.
“Temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than the global average.
“More heat is available from air and ocean to melt away the bottom and surface of ice shelves, and the thinning ice shelves are more susceptible to breaking up.
“We saw this with Zachariae Glacier, this summer with Milne Ice Shelf in Canada, and now Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Glacier is losing parts of its ice shelf as well.”
Professor Jason Box from GEUS added: “We should be very concerned about what appears to be progressive disintegration at the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf, because upstream it is the only major Greenland ice sheet ice stream, draining 16 percent of the inland ice reservoir.”
Greenpeace Nordic Oceans Campaigner Laura Meller described the breaking of the ice shelf as “an alarm bell being rung”.
Speaking from the edge of the sea ice, onboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, Ms Meller said: “As the sea ice minimum in the Arctic is set to be one of the lowest ever recorded, another massive chunk of vital sea ice has fallen into the ocean.
“This is yet another alarm bell being rung by the climate crisis in a rapidly heating Arctic.
“We came to the ice edge to show what’s at stake and demand world leaders hear the alarm.
“They must act to curb emissions and create a network of ocean sanctuaries covering 30 percent of our blue planet if we are serious about tackling the climate emergency.”
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