Global Warming

Mysterious crack appears in one of Greenland’s largest glaciers

The first photographs of a new and ominous crack in Greenland’s enormous Petermann Glacier were captured by a NASA airborne mission Friday.

The NASA pictures make clear that a significant new rift has opened near the center of the glacier’s floating ice shelf — an unusual location that raises questions about how it formed. Moreover, this crack is not so distant from another much wider and longer crack that has been slowly extending toward the shelf’s center from its eastern side wall. The two cracks are clearly visible in this image taken from the aircraft: Oblique photo of a portion of the new rift, near bottom center, on Petermann Glacier’s floating ice shelf and an older curved rift from the flank of the shelf, near top center.

If the two cracks were to intersect, then a single break would run across more than half of the ice shelf. That might, in turn, cause the piece to begin to break away.

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