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Earth from Space – ice island poses a hazard

Satellite image of ice island PII-A

A 251-square-kilometre ice island, calved from the Petermann Glacier, is drifting off the Labrador coast in Canada.

NEARLY 11 MONTHS AFTER BREAKING OFF the northwestern coast of Greenland, a massive ice island is now caught up in ocean currents off the coast of Labrador, Canada.

The ice island was formed when a 251-square-kilometre chunk of ice calved off the Petermann Glacier on August 5, 2010. The Canadian Ice Service has since been tracking the ice island, dubbed PII-A, via satellite and radio beacon.

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-colour image of the ice island on June 25, 2011. The northeast-facing coast of Labrador is mostly obscured by thin, wispy clouds.

News agencies reported that the ice island stretched roughly 62 square kilometres in area and weighed between 3.5 and 4 billion tons.

The island has been slowly breaking up and melting on its journey—over nearly 30 degrees of latitude, or more than 3,000 kilometres—but it could eventually pose a hazard to offshore oil platforms and shipping lanes off Newfoundland.

Canadian fishermen captured a close-up video of the ice island.

Environment Canada dropped a radio beacon on PII-A on September 17, 2010. You can track the island by clicking here.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Text adapted from information issued by Michael Carlowicz.

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Stormy skies

Satellite photo of Hurricane Celia

Winds within Hurricane Celia reached 240 kilometres per hour.

Perfectly circular, powerful Hurricane Celia spans hundreds of kilometres over the Pacific Ocean in this image from June 24, 2010. Rough-textured clouds surround the storm’s distinct eye, which has a diameter of roughly 25 kilometres. Farther from the centre of the storm, spiral arms appear thinner and smoother.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-colour image of Hurricane Celia at 1:55pm US Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on June 24, 2010. Just five minutes later, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) classified Celia as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 215 kilometres per hour (135 miles per hour).

See the full-size image here (4MB, new window).

Celia continued to strengthen after this image was acquired. At 8:00pm PDT on June 24, 2010, the National Hurricane Centre reported that Celia had strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane. By 8:00am the following morning, Celia had weakened to a Category 4 storm, but it still had maximum sustained winds of 240 kilometres (150 miles) per hour, said the National Hurricane Centre.

On the morning of June 25, Celia was roughly 1,330 kilometres (825 miles) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The National Hurricane Centre anticipated that Celia would continue to weaken as it tracked north and west across the Pacific Ocean. The storm was not forecast to come ashore over land.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Text adapted from information issued by Michon Scott and Holli Riebeek.