A “glacial calving” event occurs when a large hunk of a glacier breaks off into the sea. This is normal when glaciers near the ocean move into the warmer waters, but it’s increased dramatically with anthropogenic global warming. Greenland is one of the places that is shrinking rapidly as the glaciers retreat.
Here is a five-minute video showing the largest calving event even seen by humans, and it’s both stunning and saddening. As Slate reports:
Scientists know that Greenland is melting as the earth warms. 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. But big numbers in scientific studies about far-off lands don’t always resonate in the public mind, and somehow a substantial portion of the U.S. population still doesn’t believe that the earth is getting hotter.
Over the years, the award-winning nature photographer James Balog grew so frustrated by that disconnect that he decided to dedicate his life to visually documenting the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers. The documentary Chasing Ice, released in the United States last month, follows his relentless and at-times harrowing quest, which began in 2007 and continues today. The results are breathtaking. Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement is an enormous record of time-lapse images from multiple continents, which allow you to witness glaciers that are hundreds of thousands of years old disappearing from the earth before your eyes.
You can see more about the film “Chasing Ice” here, including a trailer, but have a look at this calving event. The scale of the event isn’t evident until the end, when they impose an image of Manhattan on the ice at about 3:30. But do watch the entire video.
The excerpt above shows the largest glacier-calving ever caught on film. Two young members of Balog’s team camped out for weeks in hopes of catching sight of exactly this. To climate scientists, the colossal event shown above is less persuasive evidence of global warming than the ever-mounting reams of data from ice cores, satellite altimetry, and so forth. After all, icebergs calving from glaciers is a natural process that would happen even if the earth’s temperature were holding steady.
But Balog recognizes that, for most people, believing requires seeing. And here his team succeeded in capturing the awesome effects of climate change in a way that papers published in Science just can’t.
Yep, we’re in huge trouble, and my only consolation is that I won’t be alive to see the real horrors beginning. But the next generation will.