Scientists from Operation IceBridge, an airborne NASA survey of polar ice, have discovered a brand-new, MASSIVE ICeberg that recently broke off of Pine Island Glacier in (West) Antartica.
dubbed B-46 by the U.S. National Ice Center, this is the first time scientists have laid ice on the massive chunk of ice.
The IceBridge project is a long-running scientific campaign that collects year-over-year measurements of sea ice, glaciers, and critical regions of Earth’s ice sheets, according to NASA.
The Iceberg formed as Ice Shelves–floating glacial areas that surround most parts of Antartica–calve the ice as part of a natural process of Antarctic Ice flowing to the sea.
But experts warn that the Iceberg may not last long.
— NASA Ice (@NASA_ICE) November 8, 2018
NASA explains that “satellite imagery and the IceBridge flight showed that the main iceberg is already beginning to break up.”
But scientists are also watching closely to see if the frequency of calving events is changing over time. In late 2016, IceBridge saw a crack beginning across the ~ approximately 22 mile-wide trunk of Pine Island Glacier.
It took a year for the rift to fully form and the iceberg named B-44 to break away in September 2017. The crack that would become B-46 was first noticed in late September 2018 and the iceberg broke away about a month later.
Pine Island has now calved major icebergs in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Prior to that stretch, the glacier was experiencing major calving events about every six years.
Surveys of Pine Island are considered among experts as one of the highest priority missions for IceBridge, mostly because of the glacier’s significant impact on sea level rise, according to NASA.