NASA officials working on Operation IceBridge have discovered a gigantic crack in one of Antarctica’s glaciers. The crack was discovered when a NASA plane mission provided some of the first ever airborne measurements of the major iceberg.
IceBridge is the largest airborne survey project ever undertaken to solely measure Earth’s polar ice and the flight that discovered the large crack had departed from Punta Arenas, Chile. According to scientists the crack extends 18 miles a distance they estimated by using a lidar instrument which bounces a laser beam off the glacier’s surface then back to the device to measure distance.
According to NASA officials the crack was discovered in Pine Island Glacier which last calved a significant iceberg in 2001. Scientists have believed for some time that the glacier was prepared to calve again however no evidence had been recently discovered to show a date for which that event might occur.
Pine Island is a special area of interest for scientists because of it’s large size and unstable nature. Scientists have stated that the nature of the glacier has made it hard for them to properly predict global sea level rise projections.
Operation IceBridge hopes to end some uncertainty over Pine Island and other ice covered areas by creating a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice over a six year period. By plotting each area with an aerial view scientists hope to better understand how sheets and glaciers change over time.
Once the iceberg breaks free it will measure approximately 340 square miles of surface area. The iceberg is also believed to by 1,640 feet thick with just 160 feet floating above the waters surface.