News / Science & Technology

Greenland Ice Island Prompts Global Warming Debate

A massive ice island has broken off the coast of Greenland.
A massive ice island has broken off the coast of Greenland.

Multimedia

Carla Babb

Heat waves, droughts and floods have been wreaking havoc across the globe in recent weeks, and now scientists say a 250 square kilometer island of ice has broken off from a glacier in Greenland.  Some are blaming this huge chunk of ice on global warming, while others say such breaks in the Arctic ice are a normal occurrence.

The ice island that broke off from Greenland's Petermann glacier is more than four times the size of the New York City's Manhattan Island. Jim Scianna of the U.S. National Ice Center, tells VOA breakage like this is fairly routine in the Arctic.

"There's about 10-40,000 of them that occur during the year in the Arctic region.  What's unusual about this one is the size," he said.

And the size of the massive iceberg has some people worried, like Greenpeace activist Melanie Duchin. "I think this is more evidence to add to the growing body of knowledge that shows that climate change is happening," he said.

Scientists say they cannot confirm whether the rip in the ice was caused by global warming because of a lack of information. They only started keeping records on the sea water around the glacier in 2003.

And ocean science professor Andreas Muenchow says years of data on the glacier itself show that after this month's event, the mass of ice is still, on average, discharging about the same amount of water it usually does - some 600 million cubic meters a year, or about 220,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. "Even a big piece like this over 50 years is not that significant.  It's just the normal rate," he said.

Muenchow warns people not to jump to conclusions. "An event like this, this specific event, all flags go immediately up, 'Oh, let's explain this by global warming.' I cannot support that," he said.

Nevertheless, Congressman Ed Markey, the Chair of the House committee on global warming, says the overall evidence is disturbing. "Scientists have warned us that climate change will result in increased melting of glaciers and polar ice, more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires, and increased drought and flooding," he said.

And people are experiencing extreme weather all over the world, from wildfires in the U.S. state of California, to droughts in Russia, to flooding in Pakistan.

But if this big break in the Greenland glacier IS caused by global warming, how would that affect us? "When they start to disintegrate and pieces break off, they start to move faster and they drain even more ice faster from the Greenland ice sheet in the sea, and that is what produces sea level rise," said Duchin.

A sea level rise that could slowly erode shorelines across the globe. But those watching the Arctic changes at the ice center say there is no need to worry at the moment.

"This is about 250 square kilometers in area, the world's oceans make up about 361 million square kilometers, so you're talking still a very very very small percentage," said Scianna.

Scientist will continue to monitor the ice island's path as it slides closer to the ocean. But they say only time will tell what damage, if any, will come from it.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs