Huge ice island near Labrador 'blew' scientist's mind

A huge island of ice the size of Manhattan is drifting off the coast of Labrador, and it's a glacial event that has scientists around the world abuzz.

A huge island of ice the size of Manhattan is drifting off the coast of Labrador, and it's a glacial event that has scientists around the world abuzz.

"It blew my mind at how big it was," said Sara Weikamp, a marine science technician with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting aerial surveys of the area as part of its International Ice Patrol.

Weikamp has been on more than 20 ice patrols with the U.S. Coast Guard, but she's never seen anything like the iceberg on the open ocean.

"When it broke off I thought it was just a big flat slab of ice," said Weikamp. "But there's a lot of melt ponds, there's a lot of rivers created by the melt ponds. I guess if you were to cut the grass off some rolling plains, it would kind of look like that, but only all white."

The ice island calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier in August 2010. When the ice island first broke away, it was twice the size of the city of Vancouver.

The ice island has been drifting south ever since it broke away, and now it's located about 50 km southeast of Cartwright, Labrador. Ice observers have estimated the ice island now measures about 50 square kilometres in area.

The progress of this ice island is the largest arctic calving event ever observed, according to Jason Box, a climatologist at Ohio State University. Box said this event demonstrates how fragile glaciers are in the face of changing ocean temperatures:

"A 1 C rise in ocean temperature has a much bigger punch than a 1 C atmospheric warming," said Box.

Box predicted another major calving event will happen at the Petermann Glacier as early as this summer.

Meanwhile, as the ice island continues to break apart and melt, iceberg watchers in Labrador and further south in Newfoundland are looking forward to a spectacular season.