A big chunk of ice has broken away from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf – 79N, or Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, in north-east Greenland. The ice covered about 110 square km; satellite imagery shows it to have shattered into many small pieces.
The loss is further evidence say scientists of the rapid climate changes taking place in Greenland. “The atmosphere in this region has warmed by about 3C since 1980″, and in 2019 and 2020, it saw record summer temperatures,” a polar researcher told. Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden is roughly 80km long by 20km wide and is the floating front end of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream – where it flows off the land into the ocean to become buoyant.
The presence of such liquid water is often problematic for ice platforms. If it fills crevasses, it can help to open them up. The water will push down on the fissures, driving them through to the base of the shelf in a process known as hydrofracturing. This will weaken an ice shelf. The fast pace of melting in Greenland was underlined in a study last month that analysed data from the US-German Grace-FO satellites. These spacecraft are able to track changes in ice mass by sensing shifts in the pull of local gravity. They essentially weigh the ice sheet.