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Massive Ice Island Breaks from Greenland
August 8, 2010

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It's big, it's cold, and it's moving — although slowly.

It is a gigantic piece of island, four times as big as the island of Manhattan, that has broken off from an iceberg in northwestern Greenland and is headed for points unknown. The iceberg in question is the Petermann Glacier, part of an ice sheet that connects Greenland with the ocean.

According to scientists, the last time such a large piece of ice broke off was in 1962.

Scientists aren't envisioning a doomsday scenario, even for oceangoing vessels, because the new glacier won't be moving all that fast and because it's so far north. The prevailing current will, scientists believe, take the new glacier through the Nares Strait and into a host of other small ice islands, with the final result being a melding of ice islands into a larger whole. One possible result could be a floating assignment in the Atlantic Ocean, and by that time the island would certainly be on everyone's radar.

So in reality, this ice island has just gone looking for another home. Still, scientists don't know why the ice island broke off or what caused the break.

One common theory for why glaciers break apart is global warming. Another common theory is sudden, heavy tectonic activity. Scientists have detected no evidence of the latter.

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