An iceberg the size of Minneapolis?


Why is it always about you, New York?

This week an iceberg “twice the size of Manhattan” broke off from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier.

What else is twice the size of Manhattan? Just about everywhere else. Manhattan is tiny at only 22 square miles. Manhattan isn’t even the size of Woodbury.

You know what’s bigger than the iceberg? Minneapolis. It’s 53 square miles. But “an iceberg that would easily fit into the boundaries of Minneapolis” (and you, too, Saint Paul) doesn’t quite cut it in the drama department.

Why use Manhattan as the measure of size? Because it suggests something is huge that is not, in fact, as huge as we’re led to believe. We think of Manhattan as big because of the size of the buildings there and the number of people there. The iceberg actually would’ve fit nicely into the Bronx. But people don’t think of the Bronx as huge.

This blog, Icy Seas, compares the entire area to the number of Manhattans. But it brings up an important point that a collapsing iceberg the size of Minneapolis obscures: Most of the melting of glaciers is occurring from below.

  • Michael
  • I agree wholeheartedly, but the tiny isle of Manhattan and New York City is also a vibrant, chaotic, confusing melting-pot of diverse cultures, languages, and multi-dimensional histories that make it a symbol that, I believe, more people on this globe can relate to the many local places. It was a challenge to find a symbol for size that more people can relate to than a cold scientific figure like 253 +/- 12 km^2. Mathematically speaking, it was a close-enough solution to a multi-dimensional optimization problem. Other than that … I am guilty as charged.

  • Ryan V.

    It also helps that Manhattan is an island with clearly defined boundaries (water!), so it is at least slightly easier to visualize.

  • Bob Collins

    In that case, “six times the size of Key West” works, too. :*)

  • Are you sure that the times refers to “six” rather than “two pies,” as in calculating the area of a circle from its radius of that delicious Key Lime pie?