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Huge chunk of ice breaks off of glacier in Greenland

A 2.7 square mile section of Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier has fallen into the sea, reports NASA.

This satellite images show the July 6 and 7 breakup of a 2.7 square mile section of Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier.

NASA/DigitalGlobe

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A huge chunk of ice about one-eighth the size of Manhattan has broken off of Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, NASA scientists report.

A 2.7-square-mile (7-square-kilometer) section of the glacier broke up on July 6 and 7 and was spotted in NASA satellite images.

Greenland's ice sheet, which is 2 miles (3.2 km) thick and covers an area about the size of Mexico, has been losing ice mass at an accelerating rate over the last decade. The ice sheet discharges much of its ice through fast moving glaciers that flow into the sea, with large chunks breaking off into the ocean.

IN PICTURES: Disappearing glaciers

The breakup last week pushed the calving front – where the ice sheet meets the ocean – back nearly a mile (1.5 km) in one day. The front is now farther inland than at any time previously observed.

Research teams led by Ian Howat of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and Paul Morin, director of the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center at the University of Minnesota have been monitoring satellite images for changes in the Greenland ice sheet and its outlet glaciers.

While the recent breakup itself is not unusual, Howat noted, detecting it within hours and at such fine detail is a new phenomenon for scientists.

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