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Monday, July 20, 2009

Jason Box: Extreme Ice Survey at the Petermann Glacier, Greenland, July 19, 2009

Extreme Ice Survey in far north western Greenland at 81 deg. N at Petermann Glacier

19 July 2009, Sunday,

With the assistance of the Greenpeace crew and donors, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and the Greenpeace helicopter, five time-lapse [Extreme Ice Survey] cameras, are now ‘watching’ the Petermann glacier floating ice shelf. Petermann is one of the widest outlets from the vast Greenland inland ice sheet. Each minute, we get high-resolution pictures from a variety of points of view from high cliffs 2500-3600 ft. (760-1090 m) above the enormous 10 mile (16 km) wide ice shelf. The views are surreal, the scale deceiving. The clear dry air and absence of artificial objects such as roads or buildings makes distances the matter of speculation. It’s only after imagining an Empire State Building into your view that you realize, we are three times above its height. Mind your step!

We’re interested in this site because Petermann has lost an ice area of 150 km² in the past 10 years. Cracks have formed and widened in the lower half of the 1500 km² (580 sq. mile) floating glacier. A crack nearest the end of the fjord suggests that a 100+ km² (39+ sq. mile) area of floating ice may detach as a 5-billion-ton ice island this summer melt season. That area is larger than Manhattan Island.

Greenpeace would like to use this event to raise urgency of ongoing Arctic climate warming, glacier loss, and accelerating global sea level rise, to urge policy makers at the global climate negotiations this December in Copenhagen.

Since installation 28 June 2009, the Extreme Ice Survey cameras have captured the progressive disintegration of two Manhattan Islands size segments of sea ice, more specifically, the loss of 3.8 km² (1.5 sq. miles) of ice. At one-minute intervals, the action is very dramatic. We will be posting a video soon. Stay tuned! We expect much more breakup in the coming two weeks.

Dr. Jason E. Box installing EIS cameras beside a 1090 meter cliff overlooking Petermann Glacier

Dr. Jason E. Box, Byrd Polar Research Center and the Ohio State University, installing EIS cameras beside a 1,090 m (3,600 ft.) cliff overlooking the Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland.

EIS cameras seen from the air as viewing a growing crack atop ridge at Petermann Glacier

EIS cameras seen from the air as viewing a growing crack atop a 760-m (2,500-ft.) ridge at Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland.

EIS cameras viewing the front of Petermann Glacier

EIS cameras viewing the front of Petermann Glacier, far northwest Greenland. The darker colored ice in the foreground is thin sea ice; the lighter, glacier ice. The distance across the fjord is 16 km (10 miles). The cliff on the opposite side is 1,090 m (3,600 ft.) high; two additional EIS cameras have been installed there. All the glacier ice in this frame is expected to detach this summer.

note: Higher resolution versions of these images will be available in future; the cost of transmission large amount of data from the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise via satellite link is an unnecessary expense.

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