Where have all the good glaciers gone?

By Sipho Hlongwane 9 September 2011

The Petermann Glacier is in Iceland. Or at least, it was two years ago. A Welsh scientist has taken photos which have shown an incredible amount of the glacier has melted away. Cause for alarm? Not until the Al Gores of this world get their hands on the photos. By SIPHO HLONGWANE

The Petermann Glacier is a large glacier in the north-west of Greenland, accounting for about 6% of the Greenland ice sheet. It is 300 kilometres long and measures up to 1 kilometre in height at some places. And it is melting at an incredible rate.

Dr Alun Hubbard of the Glaciology Centre at the Aberystwyth University took photos of the glacier last month and compared them to photos taken by other scientists at exactly the same spot two years ago. Over that period, at that spot, the glacier has almost completely melted away. Hubbard said, “Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless”.

Scientists had been expecting a big break in the glacier since 2009. “With support from the US National Science Foundation and the Natural Environment Research Council in the UK, Dr Hubbard travelled by helicopter to the glacier to gather data from time lapse cameras and GPS sensors set up in July and August 2009, with the help of Greenpeace,” BBC said. “The GPS sensors were set in anticipation of a large break-up of ice that eventually occurred by on 3 August, 2010.”

The break formed a 220 square kilometre ice island. The Petermann Glacier is far from shipping lanes, in case you’re concerned about that. DM

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