A stunning new animation has revealed the journey of an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan that broke off the West Antarctic ice shelf in September.
Satellite images show behaviour that is ‘both interesting and of concern,’ as the 100-square-mile iceberg is seen getting stuck on its way into the Southern Ocean, before disintegrating into smaller icebergs.
While the calving event at Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier – the fastest melting glacier on the continent – wasn’t all that surprising, scientists say the behaviour suggests the patterns of ice flow are changing as the area thins.
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A stunning new animation has revealed the journey of an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan that broke off the West Antarctic ice shelf in September. Researchers say its behaviour is both 'interesting and of concern'
The ice chunk has broken away from a floating part of the glacier, meaning it will not directly contribute to sea level rises.
These floating shelves act like ice cubes in a glass of water - when they melt, the water level in the glass doesn't change.
But the buoyant shelves do create barriers that stop land ice - which when lost raises global sea levels - from floating into the sea.
The loss of these barriers could see land ice break away from the continent, resulting in irreversible changes to Earth's oceans.
Pine Island Glacier could raise sea levels by 1.7 feet (0.5 metres) if allowed to completely melt.
The Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is responsible for the loss of roughly 45 billion tons of ice in Antarctica each year.
The recent calving event, in which the 100-square-mile chunk of ice split off, has ‘troubling’ implications for future sea level rise, according to researchers with the British Antarctic Survey.
‘What we’re witnessing on Pine Island Glacier is worrying,’ Dr Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist at British Antarctic Survey.
‘We’re now seeing changes in the calving behaviour of the ice shelf, when for 68 years we saw a pattern of advance and retreat resulting in the calving of a single large iceberg which left the ice front to approximately the same place.
‘The calving of icebergs in 2001, 2007, and 2013 are well-documented. Each