By Ian Johnston msnbc.com 2011-09-01T14:43:21
New photographs taken of a vast glacier in northern Greenland have revealed the astonishing rate of the glacial breakup, with one scientist saying he was rendered "speechless."
"The break-off last year is bigger than anything seen for at least 150 years," glacial researcher Alun Hubbard said.
Taken nearly two years apart, the photos show the extent of the ice loss. The channel is about ten miles wide.
Scientists returned in July this year and found the ice had been melting so quickly that some of their research masts stuck into the glacier were no longer in position.
Hubbard, who has been working with Jason Box, of Ohio State University, and others, said in a statement issued by the Byrd Polar Research Center that scientists were still trying to work out how fast the glacier was moving and the effect on the ice sheet feeding the glacier.
"Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless," he said in the statement.
"I'm very familiar with the glacier. It's very hard to sort of envisage something so big not being there ... to come back and basically see an ice shelf has disappeared, which is 20 kilometers across (about 12 miles) ... I was speechless and started laughing because I couldn't sort of believe it," Hubbard added, speaking to msnbc.com.
"This region (northern Greenland) is experiencing temperatures which are abnormally warm ... I think the far northwest of Greenland is seeing a kind of new regime of climate," he added.