Another Massive Iceberg Breaks Off From Antarctica

Posted: Sep 29 2017, 5:16am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 29 2017, 5:19am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Another Massive Iceberg Breaks off from Antarctica
Image of iceberg emerging from Pine Island Glacier taken on 26 September 2017. Credit: British Antarctic Survey

This marks the second time in just two years that a large iceberg splits off from Antarctia

A giant iceberg more than 4 times the size of Manhattan has broken off the Pine Island glacier in West Antarctica. The calving event occurred on September 26 and was captured by a satellite.

This is the second time in just two months that a glacier has shed a huge chunk of ice into Antarctic waters. Earlier, a crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf that developed over the years led to the collapse of a massive section of ice, making it one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. As a result, Larsen C shelf lost approximately 10 percent of its area.

Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is the fastest melting glacier in Antarctica that loses around 45 billion tons of ice each year. Scientists have been monitoring this glacier closely over the years because its unprecedented ice melt is a troubling sign with regards to future sea level rise.

"What we're witnessing on Pine Island Glacier is worrying,” explains Dr Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist at British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

“We're now seeing changes in the calving behavior of the ice shelf, when for 68 years we saw a pattern of advance and retreat resulting in the calving of a single large iceberg which left the ice front to approximately the same place. The calving of icebergs in 2001, 2007 and 2013 are well documented. Each calving event returned the ice front to more or less the same position and the ice shelf flowed into the sea again. But with continuing thinning it was clear that sooner or later there would have to be a change to this pattern – and this is what we are witnessing now.”

Iceberg calving is a natural process. Thousands of icebergs break off every year as a result of a crack opening in the edge of a glacier. The rapidly melting ice in Antarctica, however, is a cause for serious concern.

“If the ice shelf continues to thin and the ice front continues to retreat, its buttressing effect on PIG will diminish, which is likely to lead to further dynamic thinning and retreat of the glacier,” said Dr Larter.

“PIG already makes the largest contribution to sea-level rise of any single Antarctic glacier and the fact that its bed increases in depth upstream for more than 200 km means there is the possibility of runway retreat that would result in an even bigger contribution to sea level."

Researchers will continue to monitor the response of the Pine Island glacier through the use of satellite imagery and report any further changes.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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