According to observations carried out as part of Operation IceBridge, there is a new rift in the Petermann Glacier, one of Greenland’s largest such formations.
The New Rift Was Detected During An Operation IceBridge Satellite Image Survey
NASA also released the first images of this new rift in the ice shelf. They are part of the Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of the polar ice which is being carried out by NASA. Just recently, the research team completed a land-ice mission which targeted northwest Greenland.
As part of the mission, the team flew over and captured images of the new rift. This was detected near the center of the Petermann Glacier ice shelf or the glacier’s floating end. These new photos seem to indicate that this new rift is quite close to a larger, already known crack. This latter was established to be spreading towards the center of the Petermann ice shelf.
Operation IceBridge researchers offered some details on the new crack via a Facebook post. Through it, they stated that the “medial flowline” might help keep the new rift from increasing and advancing. The “medial flowline” is the ice flow when in the ice shelf’s middle region.
It could also stop the ice shelf from breaking. If the two rifts intersected, a part of the Petermann Glacier ice shelf could have faced the prospect of breaking off. This would not be such an uncommon event, as previous rifts have led to icebergs breaking away from this glacier. Over the last few years, Petermann’s has also been shrinking.
Stef Lhermitte is the one that found the new rift. He is an Earth Sciences Professor part of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and also part of Operation IceBridge. He stated that:
“From these images alone, it is difficult to already say anything about what exactly caused the crack on this unusual spot.”
As it is, this new crack could have allegedly been caused by the warming ocean waters currently circulating beneath the shelf. However, this is only a theory and more studies on the matter will still be needed.
Image Source: Wikimedia