For days now, residents in the small coastal Greenland village of Innaarsuit have woken up to a looming sight. On the northern side of town, a massive iceberg towers up to 280 meters (920 feet) high and with it comes a threat of destruction. Already, 33 residents have been evacuated from their homes and a number of fishing boats have been moved inland.
That’s because if the iceberg continues to melt, large chunks of ice could fall into the ocean, sparking waves that could crash over the small town.
"Residents were evacuated in the early hours of Friday in fear that a flood would hit the place as a result of the broken iceberg," Greenland police spokeswoman Lina Davidsen told Danish broadcaster TV2.
"All the people in the danger area have been evacuated to a building that is further up in the village," said Davidsen. "The evacuation happened only because the iceberg is so close to the village."
Keld Quistgaard, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, told Danish media the iceberg is estimated to be 250-280 meters (820-920 feet) at its highest point, about 200 meters (656 feet) wide, and weighs 8.8-11 million tonnes (8 to 10 million tons). Dramatic video shows the glacier calving, creating a wave rippling through the small town. Quistgaard says there could be thousands of tons of ice that could still break off.
"You can see a significant flood, and it's dangerous if you sail around in dinghies. The wave can be filled with glacier ice that is very hard,” he said.
Scientists say the calving event, when large chunks of ice break away from glaciers, is a real-time example of the forces behind global sea-level rise.
"Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential," said atmospheric and ocean expert David Holland in a statement. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance."
Such events help inform scientists in conducting simulations and predicting global sea-level rise. Another time-lapse video speeded up 20 times shows 3 percent of the annual ice loss of Greenland occur in just 30 minutes, according to Holland, whose team captured the video on June 22.
Altogether, it’s one example of how the Arctic is changing at double the rate of the rest of the world in the face of climate change, with no signs of returning to its former state. That extends to Antarctica, where a 2017 estimate suggested the collapse of the entire Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would result in a 3-meter (10-foot) sea level rise, flooding coastal areas around the world.