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Massive glacier calf can be seen from space

The chunk of ice lost from the edge of Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier is nearly five square miles in area, which might be the biggest calving event on record.

A massive iceberg – large enough to cover the island of Manhattan in nearly 1,000 feet of ice – broke away from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier this month, in one of the most significant calving events on record.

The changes to the glacier are so dramatic, they can be visibly seen on images taken from space by the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1-A satellite.

Scientists believe the calving took place between Aug. 14 and Aug. 16. The acquired images suggest that the glacier rapidly advanced westward between July 27 and August 13, before the calving caused rapid retreat of the ice front to its position seen in images taken on Aug. 19.

Calves are not uncommon for the Jakobshavn Glacier, which produced the iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912. The glacier parted with 3.4 square miles of ice, both earlier this year and back in 2010, according to European Space Agency.

Last weekend’s event might be the single biggest calving event on record, according toArctic Sea Ice Blog, but some scientists aren’t so sure.

“Overall, I don’t think that they really can nail the ‘largest’ [calving event] or not,” wrote Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, in an email to The Washington Post. “I wouldn’t get too excited on this, even though it is not good news.”

A combination of rising air and sea temperatures in the Arctic have made calving events more severe in recent decades.