NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEBSITE OF ‘GIZMODO’)

 

NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

The edge of A-68, the iceberg the calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017. (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Back in July, satellite images showed an iceberg bigger than the state of Delaware calving and drifting away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. Well, it’s summertime now in Antarctica, which means scientists are finally able to view this behemoth from up close—and the pictures are just as spectacular as we imagined.

Known as iceberg A-68, the gigantic slab of ice weighs about a trillion tons and features a surface area of 2,240 square miles (5,800 square kilometers). The berg is slowly drifting away from the Larsen C ice shelf, possibly heading towards the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. As it floats away from the Antarctic Peninsula, A-68 is splintering and forming more icebergs in the process.

This past Sunday, November 12th, members of Operation Icebridge—a NASA-led initiative to produce detailed 3D maps of Antarctic and Arctic polar ice—flew a P-3 aircraft armed with a sophisticated array of measuring instruments to take a closer look.

A remarkable shot of A-69, revealing the extent of its size. (Image: NASA/John Sonntag)

“Perhaps you know the feeling: that moment when you see with your eyes something you have previously only seen in pictures,” wrote science writer Kathryn Hansen, who participated in the trip, in an article penned for NASA’s Earth Observatory. “Before today, I knew the Larsen C ice shelf only from the satellite images we have published since August 2016.”

A wide view showing iceberg A-68B (front), iceberg A-68A (middle) and the Larsen C ice shelf (back). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Hansen said she wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the iceberg, as most bergs she’s seen were relatively small and blocky.

“A-68 is so expansive it appears if it were still part of the ice shelf,” she said. “But if you look far into the distance you can see a thin line of water between the iceberg and where the new front of the shelf begins. A small part of the flight today took us down the front of iceberg A-68, its towering edge reflecting in the dark Weddell Sea.”

Who’s up for a swim!? Larsen C ice shelf (left) and iceberg A-68A (right). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

In addition to taking photos, the Operational Icebridge scientists sought to measure the depth of water below iceberg, which they did using radar and a gravimeter.

IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz and Sebastián Marinsek from Instituto Antártica Argentino observe Larsen C from a window on the P-3 aircraft. (Image: NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

Scientists now have the clearest picture yet of A-68, which will help them track and study its progress moving forward.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Dvorsky

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Massive iceberg breaks away from Antarctica

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Massive iceberg breaks away from Antarctica

(CNN) A massive iceberg weighing more than one trillion tons has broken away from western Antarctica, according to a UK-based research team.

Scientists from Project MIDAS had been monitoring a break in the Larsen C ice shelf — the fourth largest in Antarctica — following the collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and had observed significant advances in the rift over the past 12 months.

The rift, then spanning 70 miles, on Larsen C pictured in November last year.

Experts said the separation of a 5,800 square kilometers (2,239 square miles) section of Larsen C was confirmed to have broken away between Monday and Wednesday by NASA’s Aqua MODIS satellite, which is capable of producing images in thermal infrared at a resolution of 1 km.

See Newfoundland’s ‘Iceberg Alley’ in 360° 01:26
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project said in a statement.
He told CNN the team believes the iceberg has remained intact adding, “This is part of the normal behavior of ice shelves. What makes this unusual is the size.”

Map showing iceberg detachment based on data from NASA dated July 12.

Scientists believe the iceberg — likely to be named A68 — has a volume twice that of Lake Erie in North America and is more than three times the size of the greater London area.

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It’s half the size of the largest iceberg ever recorded: B15. With an area of 11,007 square kilometers (4,250 square miles) — about the size of the state of Connecticut or the island of Jamaica — it calved off Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000.
With the iceberg now floating independently, the area of Larsen C has been reduced by more than 12%, forever changing the landscape of the peninsula, according to experts.

An aerial view of the Larsen C rift.

Luckman said that as the sheet of ice was already floating before it carved off the shelf “there will be no immediate impact.”
“This event does not directly affect anyone, and repercussions, if there are any, will not be felt for years. However, it is a spectacular and enormous geographical event which has changed the landscape.”
“We will study the ice shelf for signs that it is reacting to the calving — but we do not expect anything much to happen for perhaps years. Icebergs are routinely monitored by various agencies, and they will be keen to keep track of this one,” Luckman added.

Back in November, a satellite photo revealed just 5 km of ice connected the ice sheet to Larsen C.

Calving is a natural occurrence but scientists have been exploring if climate change may have played a role in expediting the rift.
The team of researchers have not yet found “any link to human-induced climate change,” Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team, said in a statement.

NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER / NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Luckman added, “We have no evidence to link this directly to climate change, and no reason to believe that it would not have happened without the extra warming that human activity has caused. But the ice shelf is now at its most retreated position ever recorded and regional warming may have played a part in that.”
He continued, “This event does not directly affect anyone, and repercussions, if there are any, will not be felt for years. However, it is a spectacular and enormous geographical event which has changed the landscape
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