Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

After hottest temperature, now iceberg breaks off in Antarctica

After hottest temperature, now iceberg breaks off in Antarctica

"This huge berg very quickly broke into many "piglet" pieces ..."

Video released from the ESA shows a time lapse of 57 radar images taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite, which belongs to Copernicus, a joint EU-ESA program created to provide high quality monitoring of Earth. These two glaciers have been losing ice for the past 25 years.

Bottom line: Video shows iceberg cracking off Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier.

There is a lot of imbalance in the glacial system, due to the warming temperatures.

This is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica which flows together with Thwaites Ice Stream into the Amundsen Sea embayment in West Antarctica.

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On its own, the recent calving event is not entirely surprising or particularly threatening to global sea levels; calving is a normal part of life for ice formations with sections that float on the water, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. Scientists worry that this persistent retreat could be a sign that a runaway melting cycle is in effect: As comparatively warm sea water laps at the newly exposed edges of an ice shelf, melting accelerates, the ice shelf stretches and thins, and further calving becomes ever more likely.

"Once that effect starts to go it causes more ice to flow from the continent into the ocean, so they speed up even faster and that feedback process keeps happening".

The floating ice front of Pine Island Glacier, which has an average thickness of approximately 500 meters, has undergone a series of detachment events in the past 30 years, some of which have abruptly changed the shape and position of the ice front.

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.

It comes just days after a station on the Antarctic Peninsula logged its hottest day on record, registering a temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius. Temperatures there have increased nearly 3C over the last 50 years, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. "We have been crying out for instruments like this", Drinkwater said.

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