NASA Captures Photos Of Ominous Crack In One Of Greenland’s Largest Glaciers

First Posted: Apr 17, 2017 06:32 AM EDT

NASA has taken the first photos of a new and mysterious crack in the massive Petermann Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in Greenland. The images were captured by NASA’s airborne mission -- Operation IceBridge.

Operation IceBridge is a research mission that flies instrumented aircraft over North Pole (Greenland) and South Pole (Antarctica) to gather data about polar ice and how it is changing. During this time of the year, the mission operates over Greenland -- in the course of which it took the photos of the strange new crack.

The NASA pictures show that a pronounced new rift has opened near the center of Petermann Glacier’s floating ice shelf, which has raised questions about how it formed due to the unusual location. Furthermore, this crack is not too far from another much longer and wider crack that has been slowly reaching out toward the center of the shelf from its eastern side wall.

According to The Washington Post, if the two cracks intersect, then it would cause a single break running across more than half of the ice shelf. Subsequently, the piece could start to break away. Ice shelves breaking off into icebergs do not directly increase sea levels as the ice is already floating in the water. However, since ice shelves act like the gateway to the land-based ice behind them, their disappearance could start making glaciers move into the ocean. Consequently, new water would be added to the ocean, which would raise sea levels.

Incidentally, Professor Stef Lhermitte from Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology noticed the oddly located chasm after studying satellite images and provided the coordinates. Professor Lhermitte feels that ocean forcing, which occurs when warm ocean waters melt the ice from below, could be a possible reason for the appearance of the massive crack. However, this is just a suggestion, not a confirmation.

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