NASA captures first images of enormous crack in Greenland's Petermann Glacier!

The images are a clear indication of a significant chasm near the center of the glacier’s floating ice shelf — an unusual location that raises questions on its formation.

By Zee Media Bureau | Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017, 13:35 PM IST
NASA captures first images of enormous crack in Greenland's Petermann Glacier!
Image courtesy: NASA/Gary Hoffmann)

New Delhi: Along with providing us with numerous insights into the working of the universe, US space agency NASA has time and again forewarned us of potential dangers like asteroids buzzing past the Earth, hurricanes and storms and most importantly, climate change.

NASA's IceBridge mission, an airborne survey of polar ice has been flying over northwest Greenland for the past several days. While flying over Greenland's enormous Petermann Glacier, NASA captured the first photographs of a new, ginormous crack, which is quite worrying.

Stef Lhermitte, a professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, provided the coordinates to NASA, after spotting the oddly located fissure by examining satellite images. This helped NASA capture the images.

Lhermitte posted satellite images on Twitter, thereby alerting a Petermann Glacier expedition team and questioning whether it was a prelude of a new island, or simply ocean forces creating the rift.

The NASA images captured later, are a clear indication of a significant chasm near the center of the glacier’s floating ice shelf — an unusual location that raises questions on its formation.

Furthermore, not far from this crack, another longer and wider crack has gradually been inching toward the shelf’s center from its eastern side wall. The second crack is also visible in the images.

The point of concern is that if the two cracks meet, part of the ice shelf could break off, calving an iceberg.

Covering about 1,295 square kilometres along the north-western coast of Greenland, Petermann Glacier's floating ice tongue is the Northern Hemisphere's largest, and it has occasionally calved large icebergs.

Needless to say, the crack is definitely a cause for concern and requires more digging into what caused it and whether it has the potential to trigger bigger changes.

NASA’s Operation IceBridge is a research mission in which instrumented aircraft are flown over ice at both poles — both Greenland and Antarctica — to collect data about the state of polar ice and how it is changing. IceBridge operates over Greenland at this time of year and snapped the photos on what appeared to be a crystal-clear day at the glacier.