Then-and-Now Pics Reveal Stunning Greenland Glacier Melt


Oblique view of the Petermann glacier front on 24 July, 2009 Jason Box Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University via PhysOrg

Greenland is melting. That's hardly a newsflash: retreating ice and vanishing glaciers in the Arctic have long been foremost among the most visible icons of global climate change. But the rate at which those glaciers are disappearing continues to shock scientists anew. This summer, a new crop of photos were taken of one such dissipating ice mass, the Petermann glacier. When lined up with photos taken on the same date just two years ago, the contrast left scientists stunned.

Take a look for yourself: That photo up top was taken of the Petermann glacier in August, 2009. On the same date in 2011, from the same angle, here's what the glacier looks like now:


Oblique view of the Petermann fjord, former location of the Petermann glacier front on 24 July, 2011 Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, Wales

Whoops. That's a lot of ice loss. And it shouldn't be surprising -- the melt season is now lasting longer than ever before. And it's these smaller glaciers that are drying up -- the giant, dramatic calving (when huge ice sheets separate and plunge into the sea) may capture our interest, but most of the ice loss comes from the smaller glaciers like Petermann here.

Here's another then-and-now photo comparison from another angle:


Aerial oblique view of the Petermann glacier front on 5 August, 2009 Jason Box Byrd Polar Research Center. Credit: Ohio State University.

And:


Aerial oblique view of the Petermann glacier front on 24 July, 2011 Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, Wales.

The scientist who took the second round of photos explains his reaction upon seeing the ice loss (via PhysOrg):

"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 breakup, which rendered me speechless," said Dr. Alun Hubbard from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University said in a statement ... Dr. Hubbard visited the site in July 2009 and again in July this year to observe the change.

"It was incredible to see. This glacier is huge, 20km wide and over 600m thick and hemmed in by sheer cliffs that rise to 1000m on either side. It's like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it's full of water."

Indeed -- the pictures speak for themselves.

More on Greenland Ice Loss
Dramatic Ice Loss May Get the Headlines, But 72% of Greenland's Ice Melt Comes From Small Glaciers
Greenland Rising as Ice Melts

Tags: Global Climate Change | Greenland