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Scientists Capture Striking Footage of a 4 Mile Iceberg Breaking Away From Greenland Glacier

Climate

Scientists at New York University (NYU) caught climate change and the resulting sea level rise in action with dramatic video footage they released via press release Friday.


The video shows a four-mile iceberg, about half the size of Manhattan, breaking away from Greenland's Helheim Glacier.

"Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential," NYU professor and research team leader David Holland said. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance."

The video shows the water level rise as the glacier breaks away.

Holland told The Verge that, when icebergs break off from glaciers into the ocean, they have a similar impact to the act of dropping a cube of ice into a glass of water.

"This process is very violent, very dramatic, and very one-way," Holland told The Verge. "It raises sea level, and it does it very abruptly."

The video footage was taken June 22 by Denise Holland, the logistics coordinator for NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and NYU Abu Dhabi's Center for Global Sea Level Change.

The break-away, or calving, lasted 30 minutes, but the video has been sped up to show the event in a little over 90 seconds.

Holland told The Verge her team was getting ready to go to sleep when she heard a change in the glacier's normal rumblings.

"It's hard to describe. It's like a jet engine, lots and lots of big booms, and it ricochets all over the calving," Holland told The Verge. "I turned on my camera, and I was lucky to catch what we saw."

Holland has also designed an image showing the size of the iceberg compared to Manhattan.

The size of the iceberg that broke away from a Greenland glacier, relative to Manhattan. Google Earth image courtesy of Denise Holland.

The footage isn't just a dramatic reminder of the realities of climate change. It can also help scientists and policy makers better predict and plan for it.

"Knowing how and in what ways icebergs calve is important for simulations because they ultimately determine global sea-level rise," Holland said in the NYU release. "The better we understand what's going on means we can create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change."

The first iceberg to break away was a wide and flat tabular iceberg that looked "like a pancake" David Holland told The Verge. It was followed by pinnacle bergs, which are tall and thin. These broke off and flipped over. The first tabular iceberg then crashed into another, breaking into two pieces which also flipped.

"The range of these different iceberg formation styles helps us build better computer models for simulating and modeling iceberg calving," Denise Holland said in the press release.

The footage is a dramatic example of a larger, dangerous process. A March study found that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at nearly twice the rate it melted at the end of the 19th century, Scientific American reported.

If the entire ice sheet melted, global sea levels would rise by more than 20 feet.
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