There is a new crack in one of Greenland's largest glaciers, and NASA researchers have captured the first images of the ice shelf's mysterious rift.
Operation IceBridge, NASA's airborne survey of polar ice, recently completed a land-ice mission over northwest Greenland. During the mission, researchers flew over and photographed a new rift near the center of Petermann Glacier's ice shelf (the floating end of the glacier). In the survey photos, the new rift appears relatively close to a larger, known crack that is spreading toward the center of the ice shelf. [Images: Greenland's Gorgeous Glaciers]
Part of Petermann Glacier's ice shelf could break off if the two rifts intersect, but researchers with Operation IceBridge said in a post on Facebook that the "medial flowline" (the flow of ice in the middle of the ice shelf) could keep the new rift from advancing.
Petermann, one of Greenland's largest glaciers, has shrunk in recent years. Previous rifts have resulted in massive icebergs breaking away from the glacier. In 2012, an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke away from the glacier's ice shelf. In 2010, another iceberg, this one four times the size of Manhattan, dropped, or calved, from Petermann. It was one of the largest ever recorded in Greenland, Live Science had reported.