See Spalte Glacier, part of Arctic's largest ice shelf, disintegrate

Climate change and record heat shatter a Greenland glacier.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Spalte Glacier falls to pieces in this time-lapse satellite view from Copernicus Sentinel-2.

Contains modified Copernicus data (2020), processed by ESA

Massive western wildfires in the US are one high-profile result of climate change . The disintegration of an Arctic glacier roughly the size of San Francisco is another.

The European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite bore witness to this summer's shattering of Spalte Glacier, part of the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Ice Shelf (known by the shorter name 79N) in northeastern Greenland. The 79N ice shelf is the largest in the Arctic.

On Tuesday, ESA released a time-lapse view of Spalte Glacier from June 29 through July 24. The space agency described it as breaking up into a flotilla of small icebergs covering an area of around 48 square miles (125 sq km).

"With climate change taking a grip, Spalte Glacier's final separation from the 79N Ice Shelf comes after some years of progressive disintegration," ESA said. The glacier had been in significant retreat since 1990, but was hit especially hard by the extremely warm summers of the last couple years.

The glacier's destruction is likely a sign of more to come. ESA pointed out melt ponds on the remaining ice and the likelihood that warm waters are melting the shelf from below.