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NASA Takes Photos Of The Mysterious New Rift On Greenland’s Petermann Glacier

16 April 2017, 8:40 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
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A NASA Operation IceBridge aircraft has snapped photos of the new rift forming along Petermann Glacier in Greenland after a researcher provided its exact coordinates using satellite images.  ( NASA ICE | Twitter )

The rapid melting and breaking off of glaciers is one of the more significant evidence of climate change that could lead to devastating effects on other parts of Earth. In order to spot and avoid dangers, researchers have been monitoring changes in the massive sheets of ice both through expeditions and satellite images.

That is why, when a researcher noticed a growing crack along the middle of Petermann Glacier from satellite images on April 12, the scientific community grew concerned. Two days later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Operation IceBridge flew over Greenland's glaciers to take a better look and snap clearer and more up-close images of the mysterious crack.

Rift Discovery

The mysterious new rift along Petermann Glacier was first discovered by Stef Lhermitte, a researcher and assistant professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Lhermitte, an expert on satellite remote sensing, tweeted on April 12 asking whether the crack he discovered along Petermann Glacier is a new rift. He also dug up old satellite images of the area where the crack was found and discovered that it only began to form in the late summer of 2016.

Take a look at his tweets below.

 

 

Scientific Community Concerns

Not all experts on Greenland's glaciers were worried about the discovery; however, all of them agreed that the images Lhermitte pulled up seem to show a crack along the glacier. Researchers also suggest that whatever caused the rift in the middle of Petermann glacier came from below the ice since cracks usually form from the edge.

"Whether this new crack is significant or not is hard to tell as of now. It is unusual to see cracks forming from the center, they usually start from the sides. This could indicate that the ice shelf has gotten too thin in the middle," scientist Eric Rignot from NASA and the University of California, Irvine said.

NASA Close-Up Images

Regardless of expert opinion, everyone agrees that the satellite imagery is too far to confirm anything. This is why, when NASA's Operation IceBridge flew its aircraft on April 14, the crew made sure to take a closer look at the mysterious new ridge pointed out by Lhermitte.

NASA also discovered that the new rift seems to be making its way to an older massive rift and concluded that, should the two cracks ever intersect, it can cause a massive breakage. In fact, more than half of the ice shelf would break off.

Take a look at the photo of the two cracks below.

It is difficult to predict anything from the photos alone but we can all probably expect that scientists will conduct more research on the recently formed rift now that NASA has provided a better look.

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