Minimize A porcupine loses its tongue

On 27 August 2016, Landsat-8 was in the right place at the right time, to see a deep rift widen and an iceberg move away from the Porcupine Glacier in British Columbia.

Glaciologist Mauri Pelto, who has been analysing satellite imagery of glaciers since the 1980s, called it "the biggest calving event in North America" that he has ever seen.

Glaciers constantly change due to natural freezing and thawing processes, and they often calve small icebergs. The breakup at Porcupine is the largest single iceberg to calve from a North American glacier in recent decades, said Pelto, a professor of environmental science at Nichols College.

The Landsat 8 satellite passed over Porcupine Glacier on August 27, 2016, and observed the large, new iceberg.

The false-colour image shows the landscape in shortwave infrared bands at 30-meter resolution, a view that provides better distinction between ice, snow, and water.

Unlike smaller chunks that fall into the water, this iceberg likely didn't make much of a splash when it parted from the glacier, Pelto said. "It would have been more like if you're pushing off from the shore in a canoe. It didn't break off and fall in."

View the full resolution image.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory - Additional editing by the eoPortal team.

Porcupine glacier

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