Tuesday, 29 September, 2020

Iceberg the size of Malta breaks up

Pine Island Glacier One of Antarctica's fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.
Sandy Nunez | 14 February, 2020, 09:26

Sound familiar? That's because it probably is.

Video released from the ESA shows a time lapse of 57 radar images taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite, which belongs to Copernicus, a joint EU-ESA program created to provide high quality monitoring of Earth.

And it's a big one. At over 115 square miles (300 square km), about the size of the island nation of Malta, this huge berg very quickly broke into many "PIGlet" pieces.

"What you are looking at is both terrifying and handsome", Mark Drinkwater, head of the Earth and Mission Sciences Division at the ESA, told CNN. The iceberg fragmented as soon as it separated from the glacier.

There is a lot of imbalance in the glacial system, due to the warming temperatures.

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Pine Island Glacier, along with its neighbor Thwaites Glacier, effectively act as arteries connecting the West Antarctic ice sheet to the ocean.

On its own, the recent calving event is not entirely surprising or particularly threatening to global sea levels; calving is a normal part of life for ice formations with sections that float on the water, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. But since 2013, the glacier has calved five times, according to Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing scientist from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

In October 2019, Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites were used to identify two large rifts in the PIG that had drastically increased in length within a matter of months.

Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers in Antarctica, has just lost another huge chunk of ice to the sea, continuing a troubling trend that has become a near-annual occurrence in the last decade. This break-up, known technically as a calving event, is the seventh this century for PIG, and the ninth since ESA-built satellites began monitoring the region in the 1990s.

The World Meteorological Organization said last week that a research base in Antarctica had recorded the hottest temperature ever for the continent - 18.3 degrees Celsius. Last week, a region in the North West reached over 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit) - nearly a full degree higher than the previous record from five years ago. If both these glaciers melt, the sea levels might rise by 1.2 meters globally. "We have been crying out for instruments like this", Drinkwater said.