Antarctic glacier can soon shed a new massive iceberg

Shutterstock.com/Li Qian

Two growing cracks have been seen in Western Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, and they are a threatening warning that major ice loss is about to happen. 

This major ice loss has not happened only in this year, but this loss has been seen in many recent years. Nearly a year ago, on 29th October 2018, an iceberg measuring approximately 116 square miles or 300 square kilometers shredded from the glacier, less than a month after a large crack appeared on the glacier. 

What ESA have to say?

Soon after the shedding of an iceberg B46, a chunk that accounted for 87 square miles or 226 square kilometers of the October 2018 ice loss, the two new cracks appeared, said the head of the Earth and Mission Sciences Division at the (ESA) or European Space Agency.

These cracks were spotted in early 2019 by the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites. 

Recent satellite observations reveal that the new cracks are growing, the ESA reported in a statement. Each of the cracks now measures around 12 miles (20 km) in length. Their expansion suggests the ice sheet is facing imminent and significant ice loss, according to the Earth and Mission Sciences Division.

The head of ESA, Mr. Drinkwater said in a statement, “Sentinel-1 winter monitoring of their progressive extension signals that a new iceberg of similar proportions will soon be shredded. Mr. Drinkwater further added that to put that into perspective, a large iceberg would span more than twice the area of Paris. Polar observations are being performed by both Sentinel satellite missions. But Sentinel-1’s paired orbiters are particularly useful for monitoring the status of ice at Pine Island Glacier, as these satellites use an imaging system called synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that captures photos year-round, during the winter season and in any type of weather. 

Source: Pixabay

Pine Island Glacier links the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the Amundsen Sea like an icy tongue. NASA reported that Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica, and calving incidents have increased in recent years. The ESA reported that warming ocean currents are also melting the Antarctic glacier from underneath; washing away ice faster than the glacier can replenish it. 

Prior to the 2018 shedding, the Antarctic glacier suffered two more major ice losses in 2015 and 2017 and raised concerns among glaciologists for the region’s future stability.

“In terms of frequency, it’s happening more often than before,” Seongsu Jeong, a postdoctoral researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University, told Live Science in 2017.