Closeup of the Ice Island from Petermann Glacier

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    NASA image acquired July 21, 2012

    In July 2012, a massive ice island broke free of the Petermann Glacier in northwestern Greenland. On July 16, the giant iceberg could be seen drifting down the fjord, away from the floating ice tongue from which it calved.

    On July 21, 2012, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the iceberg’s continuing journey. This image has been rotated and north is toward the right.

    ASTER combines infrared, red, and green wavelengths of light to make false-color images that help to distinguish between water and land. Water is blue, ice and snow vary in color from pale blue to white, and land areas appear brick red and brown. Clouds in the scene cast dark shadows onto the iceberg surface. Similar surface cracks appear on both the Petermann Glacier and the newly formed ice island.

    Nearly two years ago in July 2010, another large iceberg calved from the Petermann Glacier. That iceberg was estimated at roughly 97 square miles (251 square kilometers). The 2012 iceberg is estimated to be about half as big. This latest calving occurred farther upstream on the Petermann, but nevertheless occurred along a rift that appeared in satellite imagery in 2001.
    Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center observed melt ponds on the iceberg surface, but stated that the Petermann calving was likely associated with ocean currents rather than surface melt.

    NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data from NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott.

    Instrument: Terra - ASTER

    Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

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