Large iceberg breaks off Petermann Glacier

Large iceberg breaks off Petermann Glacier

05 August 2010 00:00 UTC

Large iceberg breaks off Petermann Glacier
Large iceberg breaks off Petermann Glacier

Large iceberg breaks off Petermann Glacier in north-western Greenland.

Last Updated

22 October 2020

Published on

05 August 2010

by HansPeter Roesli (EUMETSAT)

As reported on NASA Earth Observatory , on 5 August 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, roughly 250 square kilometers in size, broke off the Petermann Glacier along the northwestern coast of Greenland. The Canadian Ice Service detected the remote event within hours in near-real-time data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite. The Petermann Glacier lost about one quarter of its 70-kilometer long floating ice shelf.

Like other instruments on various polar-orbiting satellites (e.g. MODIS or ASAR) the AVHRR imaging radiometer on Metop-A also observed this major calving of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland in summer 2010. All images shown here are Natural Colour RGBs from the AVHRR instrument on Metop-A, where water clouds appear in white-pink, ice clouds and snow in bright cyan and ice (sea ice or glaciers) in darker cyan.

The Petermann Glacier is a large glacier located in a fjord that opens into the Nares Strait between Ellesmere Island and north-western Greenland (see Metop-A AVHRR overview image ). During recent years the glacier has advanced towards the Nares Strait forming a floating tongue of ice 70 km long and 15 km wide. As mentioned above, on 5 August 2010 at the end of the glacier a large piece broke off with a length of 20 km (see Metop-A AVHRR images from 27 July and 5 August 2010 ).

Thanks to the excellent coverage of the area by Metop's AVHRR instrument and several spells of little or no clouds it has been possible to document reasonably well the evolution of the iceberg also after its break-off up to 22 September 2010. The following animation (19 July to 22 September 2010) shows the whole sequence in slow motion. Orange arrows at the beginning point to the zone of break-off and from 11 September onward help to follow the iceberg down the Nares Strait. Note also a fast-moving elliptical iceberg (white arrows on 16 and 18 September , TIF) that passes to the west of the iceberg of interest (red arrows) at 50 km/day.

In summary, up to 29 August the iceberg remains inside the fjord swiveling to the left and right and only moving slowly towards the outlet. From 29 August the iceberg is trundling at the mouth, loosing some bits between 5 and 11 September (no observation between 6 and 10 Sepember due to persistent cloud). By 16–17 September the remnant of the large iceberg enters the Nares Strait and starts to accelerate southwestwards. On 22 September the iceberg leaves the observation window at a speed of 30 km/day.


Metop-A AVHRR ImageS

Metop-A, AVHRR, 5 August 2010, 18:49 UTC
RGB Composite NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Full Resolution
Animation (19 July to 5 September, AVI)
Animation (19 July to 22 September)


Metop-A, AVHRR, 5 September 2010, 18:07 UTC
RGB Composite NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Full Resolution

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Terra MODIS image, 5 Aug 2010 (source: NASA Earth Observatory)
Terra Advanced Land Imager image, 16 Aug 2010 (source: NASA Earth Observatory)