The Pine Island Glacier is a massive flowing river of ice on the western Antarctic ice shelf. And by massive, I mean massive: it’s 250 km (150+ miles) long, and has an area of 175,000 square kilometers — that’s bigger than the state of Iowa! Every year, a staggering 79 cubic kilometers (19 cubic miles) of ice drains from this glacier in the ocean, flowing via a tongue of ice floating in the water off the main land.
Flying over the glacier on October 14, scientists aboard a NASA DC-8 airplane as part of the IceBridge mission were startled to see a huge crack across the glacier. Flying back over it on October 26, they were able to photograph and measure this huge rift, and found it will almost certainly soon give birth to a huge iceberg. Check out this lovely picture of the ice crack:
[Click to enfloenate - and you really want to; it's amazingly beautiful.]
Brrrr. The scale of this crack is much larger than you might think: it’s 80 meters wide on average, and about 150 meters wide in the photo above, the size of a football stadium! It runs for 29 km (18 miles), and it’s pretty deep; a topographic map (shown here) indicated it’s 50-60 meters in depth.
About a year ago, an enormous iceberg split off the Petermann glacier in Greenland. Taken by the current, it headed south, and just last month was off the coast of Labrador. The iceberg was over 20 km (12 miles) long.
On August 22, NASA’s Terra satellite took a look at it and saw this:
I have nothing much to add here, except to make sure you understand that a chunk of ice significantly bigger than Manhattan Island broke in half.
Ships aren’t alive, and even if they were the existence of their souls would be in doubt. But still, the idea appeals to me that somewhere, somehow, the Titanic is laughing.
Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
This is truly amazing: you may remember that last August, a vast iceberg 25 km long calved off the Petermann glacier. This chunk of ice broke free and has made its way off Labrador and is headed to the north Atlantic.
NASA’s Aqua satellite caught it in the open water:
It looks almost serene and tiny, doesn’t it? Yeah, until you grasp the scale of this picture: from left to right it’s well over 400 km (320 miles) across, and that ice floe is still something like 20 km (12 miles) across, having shrunk a bit on its 3000 km journey. A beacon was placed on it last year and you can track its position online. Some fisherman shot some close-up video of the berg, too.
It’s unclear what will happen with this monster icecube. It may present a shipping danger, or even be trouble for offshore oil rigs in the Newfoundland area. Between the radio beacon and satellite images like this, hopefully its position and movement will be tracked well enough to predict where it’s headed and minimize any trouble it might cause.
Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC
- Enormous glacier calves in largest arctic event seen in 48 years
- Dramatic glacial retreat caught by NASA satellite
- Subterranean glaciers on Mars
- The Amazing Cruise: Day 3 (pix of a glacier I took in Alaska)
Holy yikes: an iceberg 25 kilometers across that broke off of Antarctica in 2000 has made a break for it and is headed toward Australia! Check this out:
Whoa. The berg has been monitored from space by NASA since November. Usually, they circulate around Antarctica due to currents there but this one managed to escape, and is drifting northeast toward Australia’s south-southwest coast. Since it broke off the main ice mass it shrank from 140 square kilometers (and may I say HOLY CRAP 140 SQUARE KILOMETERS! That’s 54 square miles!) down to 115 square km.
If you’re not sure how big that is, then think on this: Manhattan is 88 sq km. It would fit comfortably inside that iceberg.
NASA is monitoring this berg using the Terra and Aqua satellites designed for just this purpose. A shipping warning has been issued — though it may be hard to miss a chunk of ice 20 freaking kilometers across, the berg itself is calving, and smaller shards could be a hazard to ships in the area.
That is a whole lot of ice. I can’t help thinking: it’s actually bigger than the Kuiper Belt Object spotted by Hubble which I wrote about earlier. And it’s a whole lot closer. Wow.