100 Square Miles and Drifting
August 10, 2010 1:20 PM   Subscribe

On August 5, 2010 in the north-east corner of Greenland, about 100 square miles (251 square kilometers) of the Petermann Glacier broke off (or calved, see: glacial geology terminology), and in time for the 35th anniversary for the coining of the term "Global Warming". The glacier has been showing signs of breaking up in the last few years, but this is the most dramatic loss for the Petermann Glacier in ten years, yet still far from being the largest calving event in recorded history.

Wired has an animated comparison of the glacier on July 31, August 4 and August 7. For sake of comparison, the newly broken off segment is four times the size of Manhattan and half as thick as the Empire State building, as described by University of Delaware researchers. Manhattan is a common measuring stick, with a 2009 summary of Greenland marine-terminating glacier outlets being summed up by saying the loss was equivalent with an area more than 11 times the area of Manhattan Islands by the folks at the Byrd Polar Research Center, and an earlier calving of the Petermann Glacier in 2008 was described as being equal to half the size of Manhattan Island.

In regards to the ultimate path of University of Delaware associate professor Andreas Muenchow said the ice island will travel south and west to Nares Strait, and:
In Nares Strait, the ice island will encounter real islands that are all much smaller in size. The newly born ice-island may become land-fast, block the channel, or it may break into smaller pieces as it is propelled south by the prevailing ocean currents. From there, it will likely follow along the coasts of Baffin Island and Labrador, to reach the Atlantic within the next two years.
Note: The 35th anniversary is that of the term Global Warming being used by Wallace Smith Broecker, in the paper titled: “Climate Change: Are we on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” (abstract, article on Scribd). NASA has an interesting write-up on the term, noting that Broecker's choice of words was new, and previously the phrasing was "inadvertent climate modification."
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
You hear about these ice calving events ... now, ships have to dodge icebergs all the time, but has there ever been a case where a massive block of ice, something on the order of "four times the size of Manhattan" has floated into shipping lanes?

As in, "Maersk shipping vessel NR103, please turn north to bearing zero-zero-1-niner. Gonna need you to go around something four times the size of Manhattan."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:34 PM on August 10, 2010


"half as thick as the Empire State building [is tall]"

I was trying to figure out why someone would compare something to how thick the ESB was. Then I was like, there's no way the ESB is two football fields along its shortest dimension.

So umm, yeah, like, words. They mean something.
posted by Eideteker at 1:45 PM on August 10, 2010


now, ships have to dodge icebergs all the time, but has there ever been a case where a massive block of ice, something on the order of "four times the size of Manhattan" has floated into shipping lanes?

Yes. Back in the mid 90s I used to work for a major container shipping company, and I remember what I like to call an "OMG" event where one of our ships was going to be delayed by two days on a transatlantic route (Rotterdam-Halifax, if I remember correctly) due to an "ice event" in the North Atlantic. I got a call at 4AM from our regional GM telling me to get in the office right away as they needed to contact every customer with cargo on that ship, and they needed me to be on site to handle any IT issues if they cropped up.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:48 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder who coined the usage of "calving" to denote chunks of ice melting of a glacier. It makes something that seems like it should be a horrifyingly screeching canary in the coal mine into a cute, motherly ball of "aww..."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pity this iceberg won't block the lanes of every highway on the planet. Just some distant, unseen shipping lane that won't inconvenience anyone but a few ships bring stuff that could be made locally from distant, low-cost centers of production.

I challenge everyone in this thread who will say something about Global Warming to park their car for a week a month or a year and find a carbon-free way of getting around. "Inadvertent climate modification" beings at home. Don't wait for the government, or the other guy to do something about it. Walk the talk or shut the hell up.

*Looks at well-used bicycle with increasing sense of self-satisfaction.*

For all of my car-free friends with whom I share the bike lanes, let us mock the hypocrites.

*Looks around. Sees self in huge minority.*
posted by three blind mice at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2010


makes something that seems like it should be a horrifyingly screeching canary in the coal mine into a cute, motherly ball of "aww..."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:03 PM on August 10 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


Well if you only saw calving in Disney movies. But IRL, think of the mucous and blood and shit everywhere, and the metaphor's not half bad.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:17 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I challenge everyone in this thread who will say something about Global Warming to park their car for a week a month or a year and find a carbon-free way of getting around. "Inadvertent climate modification" beings at home. Don't wait for the government, or the other guy to do something about it. Walk the talk or shut the hell up.

~7,000 miles/year for the last two plus years by bike, and I think GW is a crock.
posted by Rafaelloello at 2:25 PM on August 10, 2010


Pfft, global warming. Obviously what's happened here is some frigid supervillain has it in for Canada.
posted by carsonb at 3:10 PM on August 10, 2010


Favorite floating ice term: Bergy Bits! Sounds like a cool and crunchy snack!
posted by Standeck at 3:46 PM on August 10, 2010


NASA has an interesting write-up on the term

Hey, thanks for that. This sort of clears up the confusion between "global warming" and "climate change". At least in science papers, "global warming" means surface temperature changes while "climate change" means every other change (more storms, etc..). So when it's hot outside we say "global warming". When it's storming or drought we say "climate change".
posted by stbalbach at 3:54 PM on August 10, 2010


"Inadvertent climate modification" beings at home. Don't wait for the government, or the other guy to do something about it. Walk the talk or shut the hell up.

Sorry, but I call bullshit. A billion hipsters riding fixies holding hands singing kumbaya won't stop the rest of the global population from destroying the planet. Either we get top-down regulation and market-based solutions which, via full international cooperation, succeed at capping global atmospheric carbon dioxide at 350ppm (50ppm below current levels) or you are totally screwed, regardless of how often you ride your bike. And by the way, agricultural and industrial sources of CO2 emissions dwarf personal vehicle contributions. Given your level of self-righteousness, I hope you're a vegetarian.
posted by mek at 4:00 PM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


makes something that seems like it should be a horrifyingly screeching canary in the coal mine into a cute, motherly ball of "aww..."

Calving is a normal part of the glacial life cycle; as snowpack is added way up top and the compressed ice flows downhill towards the sea, the part that meets the ocean is naturally going to melt into it. This normally takes place at a rate that comes close to the rate at which new ice is being pushed toward the water, so the edge of the glacier stays in about the same place. The real trouble here, the truly terifying thing, is that these cute little calves are PREEMIES!
posted by contraption at 4:01 PM on August 10, 2010


A billion hipsters riding fixies holding hands singing kumbaya won't stop the rest of the global population from destroying the planet. Either we get top-down regulation and market-based solutions which, via full international cooperation, succeed at capping global atmospheric carbon dioxide at 350ppm (50ppm below current levels) or you are totally screwed, regardless of how often you ride your bike.

What?! This is ridiculous. We need both of those things to happen. That should be a no-brainer.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:19 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless you have a religious tradition behind you, you can't sell sacrifice. Learn from the infotainment culture and upsell your preferred customer options.
posted by yesster at 5:30 PM on August 10, 2010


"Inadvertent climate modification" beings at home.

Begins at home, but only governance will finish it. Most people lack the knowledge and ability to make rational choices in this matter due to the vested interests pushing the other way. When you frame the issues of action like that, you are pitting one individual against the mighty, legion, behemoths of carbon-producing industry, with trillions of dollars, centuries of labour-time, sophisticated PR and lobbying skills and so much raw power it looks like thaumaturgy.

One individual against these interests in like an umbrella against a tsunami. Mek is right; political action is the most powerful thing you can do for climate change right now. This doesn't obviate personal choices but individual action is no substitute for political, collective action; they are two completely different things, and we need the latter not the former to save our planet and our species from a sad fate.

Judging people you've never met or know nothing about is less helpful. Your self-satisfaction is just another source of hot air.
posted by smoke at 5:42 PM on August 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


No comments on the NWA single (wiki), or the Wale mixtape (wiki)?

Yes, that was my inspiration for the title.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:46 PM on August 10, 2010


Giant iceberg drifting toward Canada could threaten ships, oil platforms
posted by homunculus at 7:38 PM on August 10, 2010


Favorite floating ice term: Bergy Bits!

nice, but I prefer a Growler
posted by bystander at 9:44 PM on August 10, 2010


I challenge everyone in this thread who will say something about Global Warming to park their car for a week a month or a year and find a carbon-free way of getting around. "Inadvertent climate modification" beings at home. Don't wait for the government, or the other guy to do something about it. Walk the talk or shut the hell up.

The fact of the matter is, at least in the United States, that a lot of people have no choice. Jobs are scarce. Suburban sprawl has placed many people far from the city centers where they work. Public transportation is nil in many places, and still uses carbon based fuels. What do you suggest? People ride their bikes 60 miles to and from work in an urban center they couldn't afford to live in anyway. Vast amounts of wealth have become concentrated in the hands of a few, a few who actively fight against any real political action on climate change. It's just unfair to characterize people who don't "walk the talk" as hypocrites. I don't drive. I hate cars, but I never throw it in other people's faces because I realize that individual choices are too often beholden to the choices we have made as a collective throughout many decades prior to my existence. I agree with those who say political action is the way to go. It has to be. Also, as seen stated by a C-SPAN guest, "I agree with what I said."
posted by IvoShandor at 3:55 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Favorite floating ice term: Bergy Bits!

nice, but I prefer a Growler


And then things transition into highly technical terms like "small" and "very large."

Also fun: Shape terminology, like "blocky" and "melty."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on August 11, 2010


Late to the game here, but the glacier is in northwest Greenland (the side that faces Baffin Island). Greenland is a fascinating land; read Gretel Ehrlich's dreamlike This Cold Heaven for an impressionistic look at the place.
posted by Mister_A at 7:02 PM on August 11, 2010


Whoops I meant Ellesmere Island.
posted by Mister_A at 7:16 PM on August 11, 2010


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