Iceberg size of Malta breaks off Antarctica

James Marshall
February 13, 2020

While icebergs calving from glaciers is a natural process, Drinkwater made it clear that the rate of melting and calving being seen in West Antarctica is greater than anything observed in the satellite record.

The Pine Island Glacier and its neighbor, the Thwaites Glacier, are part of West Antarctic Ice Sheet and dump large amounts of ice in the ocean, according to the ESA.

Two large rifts in PIG were spotted in 2019 and scientists have kept a close eye on the cracks and changes. The largest of them was so big, it was even given a name: B-49. On Thursday (Feb. 6), temperatures near a research base on the continent's northern edge reached 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius), the World Meteorological Organization reported. Pine Island Glacier is hard to access and since it is remote from any research bases, so flying there means making multiple short flights, making fuel depots to allow scientists to hop to the location.

Thanks to the combination of both optical and radar images from the Copernicus Sentinel satellite missions, growing cracks were spotted in the Pine Island Glacier previous year, and since then, scientists have been keeping a close eye on how quick the cracks were growing.

Bottom line: Video shows iceberg cracking off Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. By the early 2000s, it started calving once every five years.

These changes have been mapped by ESA-built satellites since the 1990s, with calving events occurring in 1992, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and now 2020.

The Boston Globe, citing NASA, reports there is enough "highly vulnerable ice" in the region surrounding the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers to raise global sea levels by about 4 feet. Because ice at the edge of the glacier was already floating, this ice will not directly contribute to sea level rise when it inevitably melts. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, nearly 90 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years.

"The problem is that when you start to change the area of the ice sheet that's in contact with the ocean by a little bit then you get this runaway effect, it's called marine ice sheet instability".

The biggest iceberg on record was 11,000 square kilometres.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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