19 July 2009, Sunday
With the assistance of the Greenpeace crew and donors, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, and the Greenpeace helicopter, five time lapse [Extreme Ice Survey] cameras, are now ‘watching’ the Petermann glacier floating ice shelf. Petermann is one of the widest outlets to the vast Greenland inland ice sheet. Each minute, we get high resolution pictures from a variety of points of view from high cliffs 2500-3600 feet [760 -1090] meter above the enormous 10 mile [16 kilometer] wide ice shelf. The views are surreal, the scale deceiving. The clear dry air and absence of artificial objects such as roads or buildings makes distances the matter of speculation. It’s only after imagining an Empire State Building into your view that you realize, we are three times above its height. Mind your step!
We’re interested in this site because Petermann has lost 150 square kilometer of ice area in the past 10 years. Cracks have formed and widened in the lower half of the 1500 square kilometer [580 square mile] floating glacier. A crack nearest the end of the fjord suggests that a 100+ square kilometer [39+ square mile] area of floating ice may detach as a 5 billion ton ice island this summer melt season. That area is larger than Manhattan Island.
Greenpeace would like to use this event to raise urgency of ongoing Arctic climate warming, glacier loss, and accelerating global sea level rise, to urge policy makers at the global climate negotiations this December in Copenhagen.
Since installation 28 June 2009, the Extreme Ice Survey cameras have captured the progressive disintegration of two Manhattan Islands size segments of sea ice, more specifically, the loss of 3.8 square kilometers [1.5 square miles] of ice. At one minute intervals, the action is very dramatic. We will be posting a video soon. Stay tuned! We expect much more breakup in the coming two weeks.
Dr. Jason E. Box, Byrd Polar Research Center and the Ohio State University, installing EIS cameras beside a 1090 meter [3600 foot ] cliff overlooking Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland.
EIS cameras seen from the air as viewing a growing crack atop a 760 meter [2500 foot] ridge at Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland.
EIS cameras viewing the front of Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland. The darker colored ice in the foreground is thin sea ice; the lighter, glacier ice. The distance across the fjord is 16 kilometers [10 miles]. The cliff on the opposite side is 1090 meter [3600 feet] high; two additional EIS cameras have been installed there. All the glacier ice in this frame is expected to detach this summer.
note: Higher resolution versions of these images will be available in future; the cost of transmission large amount of data from the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise via satellite link is an unnecessary expense.
Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise