NASA's Photo of Terrifying Giant Crack on Greenland's Petermann Glacier Raises Curiosity -- How Did It Form?

Apr 17, 2017 06:41 AM EDT

NASA has released the first-ever photograph of a giant crack on Greenland's Petermann Glacier. The photo was taken by NASA's Operation IceBridge while flying over Greenland's northwestern area.

According to The Washington Post, Stef Lhermitte, a professor at Delft University of Technology, originally spotted the giant ice crack through a thorough examination of satellite images of the area. Lhermitte provided the coordinates to NASA's Operation IceBridge, who then confirmed the existence of the crack on Greenland's enormous glacier.

The appearance of the crack left scientists puzzled as it was formed in a very unusual location, near the center of the Petermann's Glacier floating ice shelf. What's more alarming is that the newly found ice crack is in close proximity with another giant ice crack, and it spells bad news for Greenland if these two rifts meet.

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Experts say that when the two giant cracks intersect, a large section of Greenland's main ice shelf will be detached, resulting to it breaking away into smaller pieces. However, NASA's Operation IceBridge also noted the presence of a "media flow line" in the ice crack, which could stagnate the growth of the rift, as per Mashable.

Located 80 degrees North latitude, the Petermann Glacier is one of the biggest areas in Greenland's ice sheet. Roanoke notes that back in 2010, the Petermann glacier lost giant pieces of ice -- as large or even bigger than the size of Manhattan.

After the major breakoff, the Petermann Glacier has slowly grown back, but experts say that another breakoff from the main ice shelf could cost the area 50 to 70 square miles of ice.

Lhermitte said that it's still unknown how the giant ice crack on Petermann Glacier was formed. The strange ice crack appeared at the center of a floating ice shelf instead on the edges.

“From these images alone, it is difficult to already say anything about what exactly caused the crack on this unusual spot," Lhermitte said.

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