Earthshots: Satellite images of environmental change – Petermann Glacier, Greenland




Earthshots introduces remote sensing by showing examples of how environmental changes look from space.

Petermann Glacier made headline news in 2010 and again in 2012 when large pieces broke off the end of the glacier and floated out to sea. Located on the northwestern coast of Greenland, Petermann Glacier covers 1,295 square kilometers. Its floating ice tongue is 15–20 kilometers wide and 70 kilometers long—the longest floating glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.

A glacier is made up of fallen snow that has been compressed into a large thickened ice mass over many thousands of years. Tidewater glaciers flow like very slow rivers to the ocean, and at the boundary between the glacier and the sea, ice breaks, or calves, from the end, creating icebergs.

This calving is normal, but it’s worth watching Petermann and other Greenland glaciers closely. Petermann is one of the major marine-terminating glaciers of Greenland. Ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has increased recently. An article in Nature concluded that climate change may cause Petermann and other Greenland glaciers to contribute to sea level rise. Landsat helps glaciologists keep a close eye on this remote but significant glacier.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Dataset
Publication Subtype Website
Title Earthshots: Satellite images of environmental change – Petermann Glacier, Greenland
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description HTML Document
Country Denmark
Other Geospatial Greenland, Petermann Glacier
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N