Feb 15, 2017

Antarctica Just Shed a Manhattan-Sized Chunk of Ice

Pine Island Glacier
Antarctica
by
Brian Kahn
,
Climate Central
Before and after satellite imagery show an iceberg breaking off the calving front of the Pine Island Glacier. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory
Before and after satellite imagery show an iceberg breaking off the calving front of the Pine Island Glacier. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

The growing crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is the most dramatic example of change in Antarctica right now. But it isn’t the continent’s only frozen feature changing in a warming world.

Ice around the continent is disappearing as the air and water heat up and the less dramatic breakdowns are just as important to understanding the fate of the ice and the world’s coastal areas.

The Pine Island Glacier on the coast of West Antarctica is a case in point. A massive iceberg roughly 225 square miles in size — or in more familiar terms, 10 times the size of Manhattan — broke off in July 2015. Scientists subsequently spotted cracks in the glacier on a November 2016 flyover. And in January, another iceberg cleaved off the glacier.

Satellite imagery captured the most recent calving event, which Ohio State glaciologist Ian Howat said “ is the equivalent of an ‘aftershock’” following the July 2015 event. The iceberg was “only” the size of Manhattan, underscoring just how dramatic the other breakups have been.