Scientists Capture the Moment an Iceberg Breaks off from a Greenland Glacier

Calving is expected to become a much more frequent occurrence as rising global temperatures continue to melt ice caps. "By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance". But there is much that scientists have yet to learn about how and why this large-scale breakage happens, which makes it hard to predict when glaciers will fall apart, and how much that glacier disintegration will affect sea levels over time, David Holland, leader of the research team and a professor at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematics and NYU Abu Dhabi, told Live Science.

Understanding how calving events take place is, the researchers say, important for developing simulations for sea-level rise brought about by climate change. One startling aspect of the video is the noticeable rise in sea level as the glacier chunk enters the ocean. It's a tabular iceberg, long and flat; in the video, you can also see tall, thin pinnacle icebergs crack off and flip over. The camera angle then shifts to show movement further down the fjord, where one tabular iceberg crashes into a second, causing the first to split into two and flip over.

Perhaps the most drastic and devastating effect of the sea level rise is that according to experts and satellite surveillance there are many more fractures and breaks going on not only in Greenland but in Antarctica as well, and this is completely certain when these glaciers are looked down from space. This can give researchers a sense of how the overall global climate is changing.

"The range of these different iceberg formation styles helps us build better computer models for simulating and modeling iceberg calving", explains Denise Holland.

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The event lasted more than 30 minutes, but the movie was compressed to about 90 seconds.

A 2017 estimate suggested that a collapse of the entire the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would result in a 10-foot-rise in sea level-enough to overwhelm coastal areas around the globe, including New York City. The research is focused on the Thwaites Glacier.

"Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential", said research team leader David Holland.

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