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

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed 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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs