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.


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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs