A huge, emerging crack has been discovered in Antarctica, with a NASA plane mission providing the first-ever detailed airborne measurements of a major iceberg breakup in progress. A more detailed look back at satellite imagery seems to show the first signs of the crack in early October.
“We are actually now witnessing how it happens and it’s very exciting for us,” said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger at NASA. “It’s part of a natural process, but it’s pretty exciting to be here and actually observe it while it happens.”
Gravity pulls the ice in the glacier westward along Antarctica’s Hudson Mountains toward the Amundsen Sea. A floating tongue of ice reaches out 30 miles (48 kilometers) into the Amundsen beyond the grounding line, the below-sea-level point where the ice shelf locks onto the continental bedrock. As ice pushes toward the sea from the interior, inevitably the ice shelf will crack and send a large iceberg free.
The glacier is of particular interest to scientists because it is big and unstable and so it’s one of the largest sources of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections.
When the iceberg breaks free, it will cover about 340 square miles (880 square kilometers) of surface area. Radar measurements suggested the ice shelf in the region of the rift is about 1,640 feet (500 meters) feet thick, with only about 160 feet of the shelf floating above water and the rest submerged.
It is likely that once the iceberg floats away it will divide into smaller icebergs that is a danger for the shipping industry.
This is a major problem for us since we will have to rearrange our earlier plans, but no problem without a solution