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Is Antarctica Breaking Apart? Another Massive Iceberg is About to Break off

A long, steep, newly discovered fissure is fragmenting the Isla Pine glacier, located in West Antarctica.

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The crack – about 30 kilometers long – was located by Stef Lhermitte, assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience and Remote Sensing at the University of Technology in Delft (Netherlands), after analyzing satellite images of the Pine Island glacier that are received via email each day.

The rupture of the immense platform of ice began in its center, where the ice shelf touches warmer ocean waters that are melting it from underneath, according to Lhermitte.

Experts note that the nearly 19-mile-long (30 kilometers) rift started in the middle of the ice shelf. Image Credit: Landsat OLI imagery processed by Stef Lhermitte/Delft University of Technology
Experts note that the nearly 19-mile-long (30 kilometers) rift started in the middle of the ice shelf. Image Credit: Landsat OLI imagery processed by Stef Lhermitte/Delft University of Technology

The future iceberg is not yet completely detached. However, according to the scientist, this could happen “relatively soon”, because the crack crosses almost the entire glacier. “I estimate that this will happen at any time during this Antarctic summer,” said Lhermitte. If the detachment is large enough, it will receive a name, he added.

Worryingly, another similar event happened in 2017 when a massive Iceberg, 4.5 times the size of Manhattan broke off Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica.

“It was Wednesday evening [Oct. 3] and all of a sudden I saw something I didn’t see the day before,” he told Live Science.

The red line shows where the 2017 Pine Island Glacier iceberg broke off. The blue line shows the newfound rift. Image Credit: Landsat OLI imagery processed by Stef Lhermitte/Delft University of Technology
The red line shows where the 2017 Pine Island Glacier iceberg broke off. The blue line shows the newfound rift.
Image Credit: Landsat OLI imagery processed by Stef Lhermitte/Delft University of Technology

Lhermitte notes that this will be the sixth large-calving even that Island has experienced since 2001.

And while it is completely natural for a glacier to calf icebergs, the concerning fact about Pine Island Glacier is that its calving icebergs faster than before.

Lhermitte notes that upcoming iceberg isn’t loose yet, “but the fact that the rift is almost across the entire glacier, it might happen relatively soon.”

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Huge Iceberg Poised to Break Off Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier