A big chunk of ice has broken away from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf – 79N, or Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden in north-east Greenland.
The ejected section covers about 110 square km, satellite imagery shows it to have shattered into many small pieces.
The loss is further evidence say scientists of the rapid climate changes taking place in Greenland.
“The atmosphere in this region has warmed by about 3C since 1980,” said Dr Jenny Turton.
“And in 2019 and 2020, it saw record summer temperatures,” the polar researcher at Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany told BBC News.
What is the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden ice shelf?
Also known as 79N, the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden ice shelf is one of the largest in the world at around 80km long by 20km wide and plays an important role in regulating the Arctic climate around Greenland, The Week reported.
According to a 2018 paper published in the journal Nature, the shelf – together with its neighbours Zachariæ Isstrom and Storstrommen is one of the major outlets of the North East Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS), a 600-km-long ice stream that drains around 15% of the interior Greenland ice sheet into the ocean.
However, while the ice shelf was thought to be relatively stable, “increased thinning rates” seen on the shelf since 2006 are “likely related to increased air temperatures leading to higher melt rates and a reduction in summer sea ice concentration”, which “facilitates higher calving and retreat rates”.
What happened this week?
The BBC reports that at its leading edge, the 79N ice shelf split in two, with a “minor offshoot turning directly north” known as the Spalte Glacier.
After enduring high summer temperatures last year and fracturing heavily as a result, it fully broke off from the remainder of the ice shelf this week, fragmenting into thousands of small icebergs.