A giant iceberg almost the size of London broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf in West Antarctica on Sunday (January 22) after years of cracking.
According to the statement, the shelf broke off during the spring tide, a regular ocean swell that coincides with the full moon and new moon. (will open in a new tab) from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which reported the separation of the iceberg from the shelf.
Since the iceberg broke away, several satellites have flown over the area, photographing the orphan triangular ice fragment. BAS, which operates the Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, estimated the size of the breakaway iceberg at 600 square miles (1,550 square kilometers). This is about the size of the London metropolitan area and slightly larger than Houston.
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The calving is not related to climate change, BAS said in a statement, but is caused by “natural processes” that have been going on for more than 10 years. The iceberg broke off along a fissure known as Chasm 1, which BAS scientists have been monitoring since 2012. In fact, the gradual expansion of Chasm-1 prompted BAS to move the Halley research station 14 miles (23 km) inland in 2016. not affected by calving, BAS said.
“Our glaciologists and task forces have been looking forward to this event,” BAS director Jane Francis said in a statement.
However, the Moon may have pushed a new iceberg in its path, as the separation occurred during what is known as spring tide, the “ebb tide” that occurs around new moons and full moons as a result of the Moon’s gravitational pull. thrust, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (will open in a new tab). Despite the name, these phenomena have nothing to do with the season of spring!
The BAS statement said Sunday calving is the second such event in the past two years to affect the Brunt Ice Shelf. BAS monitors the area using an automated network of high-precision GPS sensors located around the station, as well as data from Earth observation satellites.
(Image credit: Copernicus/NERC/Simon Proud)
“This calving event was expected and is part of the natural behavior of the Brant Ice Shelf,” BAS glaciologist Dominic Hodgson said in a statement. “It has nothing to do with climate change. Our science and operations teams continue to monitor the ice shelf in real time to ensure it is safe and to support the scientific research we are doing in Halle.”
Since 2017, the Halley Research Station, which played a key role in the discovery and study of the ozone hole in the 1980s, has only been inhabited during the Antarctic summer, from November to March each year. The current team of 21 researchers and staff will remain at the station until around February. 6, reports BAS.
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The 500-foot (150-metre) thick Brant Ice Shelf is a floating ice sheet that moves up to 1.2 miles (2 km) per year westward into the Weddell Sea. Thanks to the work of BAS, this shelf is one of the most closely monitored ice shelves on Earth. In situ and satellite observations indicated in December that Chasm 1 had spread throughout the ice shelf and that calving was expected.
BAS expects the Antarctic Coast Current to carry a new iceberg to the west. The US National Ice Center will soon give the iceberg a name, and glaciologists will follow its movement.
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