In summer 2020, a huge piece of ice split off from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf.
“Spalte” is a Danish verb meaning “to split.” The aptly named Spalte Glacier in northeast Greenland once branched off from its parent glacier, Nioghalvfjerdsbrae (79 N), which is the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf. In late June 2020, Spalte completely split off from its parent and crumbled away into numerous icebergs.
Scientists have been watching Spalte Glacier crack, shed ice, and retreat for decades. But the loss of 113 square kilometers (44 square miles) of ice in summer 2020 means that the branch of floating ice on the northeast side of 79 N is essentially gone for good. Scientists say the recent loss of Spalte, and the subtler changes to the adjacent 79 N, are part of a “progressive disintegration” that has happened amid unusually warm temperatures in recent years.
The pair of satellite images above show changes in the region across three decades. The right image was acquired with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 on July 24, 2020, nearly one month after Spalte Glacier broke up. For comparison, the left image from Landsat 5 shows the glacier system on August 16, 1986.
Continue reading at NASA Earth Observatory
Image via NASA Earth Observatory