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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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