Scientists have managed to capture on film the moment a huge iceberg breaks away from a glacier in eastern Greenland. The video depicts Helheim Glacier and was shot by New York University’s Denise Holland. Hopefully, it will help researchers further understand the causes of sea-level rise around the world.
"Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential," said research team leader David Holland in a statement. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance."
The process by which ice breaks away from a glacier is known as calving. The chunk of ice that broke away from Greenland's Helheim Glacier during this particular calving event was huge, measuring 6 kilometers (4 miles) in length. That means it would stretch from lower Manhattan to Midtown in New York City, as you can see below.
The calving event was filmed on June 22 at 11.30pm local time. It took a total of 30 minutes for the ice to break away, although this has been sped up in the video to last just 90 seconds.
The vast piece of ice that breaks away is described as a tabular iceberg because it is wide and flat. Meanwhile, smaller pinnacle icebergs, which are tall and thin, can be seen calving off and flipping over. Later in the video, you can see two tabular bergs collide, splitting one in half and overturning the two new pieces. You can check out the amazing footage below.
"Knowing how and in what ways icebergs calve is important for simulations because they ultimately determine global sea-level rise," said Denise Holland. "The better we understand what's going on means we can create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change."
Unsurprisingly, calving tends to occur as a result of melting ice, and is likely to become more and more common as global temperatures rise. This, in turn, will cause sea levels to rise.
Just last year, a vast iceberg weighing a trillion tonnes calved away from Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf, exposing the mysterious ecosystem below it to light for the first time. Worryingly, scientists reckon that if Antarctica's Western Ice Sheet falls apart, it could lead to a 3-meter (10-foot) rise in sea levels, affecting many coastal cities around the world.