According to reports, a massive Iceberg, with a site little over 300 square kilometers—or approximately the size of Malta—has just broken off of Antarctica, show recent satellite images provided by the European Space Agency.
Despite its massive size, it comes as no surprise. According to experts, it was anticipated that the Pine Island Glacier—known as PIG—would eventually spawn such an iceberg.
Shortly after breaking free, the massive chunk of ice broke into much smaller pieces known as piglets, the largest of which has been dubbed B-49 by researchers.
Images provided by ESA’s Copernicus Satellites gave experts a heads-up years ago. Images unveiled that two large rifts had appeared in 2019, and further observations revealed the rifts spreading until eventually the spawned a new iceberg.
The Copernicus satellites are composed of seven unique satellites that orbit the Earth.
The animation seen below makes use of 57 radar images taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission between February 2019 and February 2020. The data shows just how quickly the cracks on the ice appeared and grew, eventually leading to this brand-new calving event.
Pine Island Glacier, together with its neighbor dubbed the Thwaites Glacier, connects the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with the ocean. Both of the glaciers are known for discharging notable quantities of ice into the ocean.
Both the Pine Island Glacier as well as the Thwaites Glacier have been losing ice for more than 25 years. Given the fact that they are located in a remote region, experts must rely on satellite images in order to monitor and measure their life-cycle.
Unlike Pine Island Glacier—which tends to shed large icebergs every few years —the icebergs that break from Thwaites are generally not big enough to be named and tracked by the U.S. National Ice Center, reports NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Analysis of western Antarctica has revealed that since the early 1990s, the Pine Island Glacier’s ice velocity has increased dramatically to values that exceed 10 m a day.
The Glaciers floating ice front has an average thickness of around 500 meters. Over the past 30 years, it has experienced a series of noteworthy calving events, some of which have abruptly changed the shape and position of the ice front.
Thankfully, the events have been tracked and mapped by ESAs satellites since the 1990s, with notorious calving events occurring in 1992, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and now 2020, ESA reports.
“The Copernicus twin Sentinel-1 all-weather satellites have established a porthole through which the public can watch events like this unfold in remote regions around the world. What is unsettling is that the daily data stream reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica, ” revealed Mark Drinkwater, senior scientist, and cryosphere specialist.
Pine Island Glacier is considered the fastest melting glacier in Antarctica and is responsible for as much as 25% of Antarctica’s total ice loss. Satellite measurements have revealed that the Pine Island Glacier Basin has a greater net contribution of ice to the sea than any other ice drainage basin on the planet.