NASA Satellite Spots Mile-Long Iceberg Breaking Off of Antarctic Glacier


Another instance of iceberg breakage has taken place in the Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier last month where a Manhattan-sized ice block swayed away into the Antarctic waters. Scientists at NASA point out that the Manhattan-sized chunk of ice is actually dwarfed by the big 225-square miles (583 square kilometers) iceberg that broke off in July 2015.

Satellite imagery captures calving of iceberg NASA's Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured before and after images of Pine Island Glacier's floating edge on January 24 and again on January 26. The first resulted in an iceberg that broke off in 2015.

Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica with some studies suggesting that its eventual collapse is nearly inevitable.

The ocean under Pine Island Glacier's ice shelf has warmed about 1°F since the 1990s.

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Other rifts are less visible at the surface because they are growing upward from the basal (bottom) side of the shelf.

The shocking new NASA images show the reality of the problem, as Pine Island Glacier has shed another block of ice into Antarctic waters.

These ice shelves are rapidly losing mass and understanding the mechanisms which control ocean conditions and drive melting of these glaciers is hugely important. Climate scientists say warming is causing more extreme days of heat, downpours and is nudging up global sea levels.

The Earth-watching Landsat 8 satellite captured images of the latest iceberg event between January 25 and 29, seeing the progression from the initial crack to the iceberg floating into the bay.

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Simon Gascoin, an ice and remote sensing expert at France's National Center for Scientific Research, noted on Twitter that another crack could be seen just inland from where the iceberg calved off, raising the possibility of another calving event. Fast stream glaciers make up about 10 percent of Antarctica's glaciers and are responsible for most of the ice leaving the ice sheets.

The most recent chunk is 10 times smaller, about the size of the island of Manhattan (22.7 square miles or 59 square km).

"Such "rapid fire" calving does appear to be unusual for this glacier", Howat said. According to the scientists, the near future will see more shredding of icebergs because of these rifts.

"People thought that it was the wind, at the edge of the continental shelf, that was determining how much water was pushed onto the shelf, warming the glacier from beneath", said Ben Webber, an oceanographer at the University of East Anglia and lead researcher on the study.

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