Giant Iceberg Four Times The Size Of Manhattan Is Breaking Off From Pine Island Glacier In Antarctica

A giant iceberg is disintegrating from the Pine Island Glacier, as seen from the observations taken by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite.

Robert McGillivrayThinkstock

Scientists discovered a giant iceberg four times the size of Manhattan breaking off from Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica in September. Since then, it has been calving into smaller fragments.

Currently, the scientists have released an animation showing the calving off the giant iceberg from the glacier. The animation was created based on the observations taken by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. This disintegration of the huge iceberg and the melting of the glacier has alarmed the scientists.

Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist from the British Antarctic Survey, said that what they are witnessing on Pine Island Glacier is worrying. He further said that they are now seeing changes in the calving behavior of the ice shelf when for 68 years they saw a pattern of advance and retreat resulting in the calving of a single large iceberg that left the ice front in approximately the same place, as noted by Science Alert.

The iceberg is approximately 267 square kilometers, roughly 103 square miles. The calving iceberg is expected to drift out in the Southern Ocean before totally be fractured into fragments. The scientists said that this signals an alarming new precedent in calving processes.

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Pine Island Glacier is considered the fasting melting glacier in Antarctica. It accounts for about a quarter of ice loss, that is about 45 billion tons of ice each year. The ice shelf has been thinning for decades, according to Phys.org.

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Dr. Larter said that if the ice shelf continues to thin and the ice front continues to retreat, its buttressing effect on Pine Island Glacier will diminish. This would likely lead to further dynamic thinning and retreat of the glacier.

He further said that the Pine Island Glacier is making the largest contribution to sea level rise of any single Antarctic glacier. He added that its beds are augmenting in-depth upstream far over 200 km means there is the possibility of runway retreat that would result in an even bigger contribution to sea level.

Meanwhile, glaciologist Ian Howat of Ohio State University said that they speculated that the rifting would result in more frequent calving happening here. He concluded that if new rifts continue to form progressively inland, the significance of ice shelf retreat would be high.