There's a video going around of a glacier splitting apart in Greenland. It's super cool to see in a very Planet Earth kind of way, but it's also pretty important. Here's why.
What Is Happening in This Video? It's the "largest iceberg calving ever filmed," according to The Guardian's billing. It's also a really cool video of a huge glacier falling apart. Alternatively: mother nature crying.
OK, but How Big Are We Really Talking Here? Well, it's a 1.78 cubic miles of iceberg slicing off a larger... piece of iceberg. For our friends who use the metric system, that's 7.4 cubic kilometers.
Uh... So, What Is That Comparable to? According to the filmmakers who captured it, it's like "Manhattan breaking apart in front of your eyes." They say glaciers that bobbed up and down in the water were as high as 600 feet. So, what we're trying to say is it's really, really big.
Is That Dark Thing Actually an Alien Ship That Was Hiding for Millions of Years? No, it's just a large piece of ice, and you need to lay off the bad sci-fi movies for a while.
So, Like, How Did The Filmmakers Do That? Did They Show Up and Get Lucky? Not at all. They got the shot because of their discipline. James Balog and his team were staked out watching the glacier for weeks with time lapse cameras recording at all times to make sure they captured the exact moment it split. It's amazing one of techs working the camera was on the phone with a team member when it happened, though.
But, Why? Balog and friends are making a movie about glaciers, sea levels, and climate change called Chasing Ice, which might be the most exciting name given to a nature documentary ever. It's about Balog's quest to film the impact climate change is having on the world's glaciers.
2012 was a record year for glacial melting. There were "mammoth melts" this year, as one climate change fiend put it. Greenland, where this video was shot, had its' warmest summer in 170 years. Let's allow the experts from NOAA to explain it:
"The 40 largest glaciers lost an area about twice that of the previous decade average," he said. "Extensive surface melting was documented for the first time at the highest elevations of the ice sheet."
As Slate's Will Oremus explains, things have been on a downward trend for a while -- and it's only getting worse. "Studies show that the island has been shedding ice at an incredible pace of 142 billion tons per year—five times faster than the rate as recently as the 1990s," he writes.
In case you still need it spelled out for you: climate change's effect on glaciers is that pieces that look like Manhattan are splitting off into the ocean, and that's really, really terrifying.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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