Nothing on Earth is more powerful than Mother Nature. If you’ve ever seen a volcano, tsunami, or calving glacier, then you’ll know this to be true.
The Columbia Glacier in Columbia Bay, Alaska is perhaps the most dramatic example of a calving glacier.
Calving occurs when massive chunks of ice break off the terminus, or end, of a glacier. It is caused by the forward motion of a glacier which makes the terminus unstable, according to the Alaska Satellite Facility.
The chunks you end up with are referred to as icebergs.
The Columbia Glacier, located in the eastern part of Prince William Sound, has been retreating since 1982 and is expected to stop by 2020. It is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world and was recorded to move 98 feet per day as of 2001, but has since slowed down.
Alaska.org reports that 13 million tons of ice break off the face of the glacier every day, leaving behind boat-size icebergs.
This makes it difficult for boats to get close to it, however, there are tours that leave from Valdez to witness this amazing sight.
The boat usually gets between 1 mile and 12 miles from the glacier that can be between 200 and 400 feet tall in certain areas.
The glacier is more than 550 meters thick in some places and covers about 400 square miles and snakes about 32 miles through the Chugach Mountains. And it’s only getting smaller because of global warming and because sometimes that’s just what glaciers do.
Basically, the rate at which this glacier is losing ice is equivalent to 1.5 trillion liters of water over the summer of 2007 alone, which is 44 times the entire annual consumption of bottled water in the United States.
As grim as this sound, the sight is absolutely stunning to see these massive pieces of ice fall away into the water to create icebergs.
Either way, we’re going to enjoy it for what it is.
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