A giant iceberg broke off of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier on Monday and is now floating in the Amundsen Sea, according to a team of German scientists.
The iceberg is estimated to be about 278 square miles in area, a little less than the size of New York City’s five boroughs or about the size of Chicago. The satellite images were taken by the German Aerospace Center, courtesy of their TerraSAR-X satellites.
Angelika Humbert, an ice researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, says it’s too early to tell whether the iceberg breaking off was a result of climate change. “The creation of cracks in the shelf ice and the development of new icebergs are natural processes,” she said in a statement.
However, she adds that the glacier’s ice had been flowing more quickly than other glaciers in western Antarctica. “The wind now brings warm sea water beneath the shelf ice,” she said. “Over time, this process means that the shelf ice melts from below.”
Climate Central reports that “global warming is clearly having a huge effect on the Pine Island Glacier itself, a massive river of ice that drains about 10 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”
The new iceberg won’t raise sea level since it was already floating when it broke away. However, if the entire sheet were to melt or slide into the ocean, sea level would go up by 11 feet.
Scientists with NASA’s Operation IceBridge first discovered a giant crack in the Pine Island Glacier in October 2011, as they were flying over and surveying the sprawling ice sheet.
Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey said: “Although there’s nothing to suggest this event is unusual, it’s not to say that it’s not interesting. We are extremely interested because we want to understand if the loss of a large block of ice has an affect on the flow of the glacier”.
“Glaciers are constantly in motion,” Humbert told LiveScience. “They have their very own flow dynamics. Their ice is exposed to permanent tensions and the calving of icebergs is still largely unresearched.”
The iceberg will be watched closely over the next few months as it moves and melts into the surrounding bay.
Glacier making NYC sized iceberg
NASA scientists have discovered a giant crack in an Antarctic glacier 18-miles long and 260-feet wide which will eventually break off an iceberg the size of New York City.
Expansive Antarctic Ice-Crack — Virtual Fly-Through
This 18 mile-long crack in the Pine Island Glacier could produce an iceberg 800 square kilometers in size. Take the pilot’s seat on a computer-generated tour of the feature which surprised its discoverers in 2011.