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Mega Iceberg: Earth Image of the Week August 27, 2010
MODIS image of Greenland iceberg
Greenland's glaciers pump out thousands of smaller icebergs into Arctic waters every year, but scientists say this is the largest in the region since 1962.
The largest iceberg to break off in the Arctic in nearly 50 years has been creeping seaward down a Greenland fjord since it calved off the Petermann Glacier on August 5, 2010.

The image to the right of the 100-square-mile ice island was captured on August 16 by the Advanced Land Imager orbiting on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite.

While bits of ice eroded from its edges, the iceberg pretty much retained its original shape as it rotated slowly counterclockwise.

The last time such a large ice island formed was in 1962 when the Canadian Ward Hunt Ice Shelf calved an iceberg.

Andreas Muenchow, professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware, estimates the ice contained in the latest iceberg could “keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days.”

Scientists believe it could become an irresistible force as it punches its way into the open ocean. "It's so big that you can't prevent it from drifting. You can't stop it," said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.

Experts believe that if the giant iceberg makes it into the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada before the winter freeze begins late next month, it could be carried southward by currents, and possibly enter the waters off Newfoundland where shipping and oil exploration could be disrupted.

The Canadian Ice Service estimates such a journey would take one to two years, and the ice island would break up and melt somewhat by the time it arrived in those busy waters.

Full story and image: NASA