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Heading our way? 255-square-mile iceberg breaks off from Antarctica

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/24/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Giant iceberg floating out to sea being monitored

An iceberg roughly six times the size of Manhattan, at 255 square miles, has broken off from Antarctica and is now drifting freely in the open ocean.

As it has been thinning and draining rapidly and may be an important contributor to sea level rise, the Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past 20 years.

As it has been thinning and draining rapidly and may be an important contributor to sea level rise, the Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past 20 years.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/24/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Iceberg, study, Pine Island Glacier


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Known as B31, the iceberg separated from Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier last November, NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt said. She added that the iceberg is a third of a mile, or 500 meters thick.

"It's one that's large enough that it warrants monitoring," Brunt said. She notes that the U.S. government, including the National Ice Center keep an eye on dozens of icebergs at any given time.

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Happily, the iceberg's present location is not in an area heavily navigated by ships. "There's not a lot of shipping traffic down there. We're not particularly concerned about shipping lanes. We know where all the big ones are," she said.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on this iceberg not only because of its size but because it originated in an unexpected location, Brunt adds.

"It's like a large sheet cake floating through the Southern Ocean," she says.

According to Brunt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Morgan State University in Maryland, the glacial crack that created the iceberg was first detected in 2011.

As it has been thinning and draining rapidly and may be an important contributor to sea level rise, the Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past 20 years.

They say the iceberg has floated across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea, and will likely be swept up soon in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean.

"We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly. It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow," iceberg researcher Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield in England said.

"There were a couple of occasions early on when there might have been partial grounding or collisions with the sea floor, as B31 bounced from one side of the bay to the other," Bigg said.

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