Nasa spots new iceberg three times size of Manhattan in Antarctica

Enormous mass of ice is latest to split apart from Pine Island Glacier

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 10 November 2018 20:11 GMT
New iceberg three times size of Manhattan spotted in Antarctica by Nasa flight

Nasa has spotted an enormous new Antarctic iceberg while on a mission to survey the region’s shifting sea ice and glaciers.

It marked the first time anyone had laid eyes on the massive expanse of ice, which the agency said had broken off from Pine Island Glacier in late October and was first observed by satellites.

The US National Ice Centre estimates the iceberg, dubbed B-46, was 66 square nautical miles (87 square miles) in size, around three times the size of Manhattan.

However, satellite images have revealed that since it was first observed, the mass has already begun to break up into smaller chunks.

The iceberg’s discovery comes shortly after Nasa released images of two separate “tabular icebergs” – ones with completely rectangular shapes and smooth edges.

Ice shelves regularly “calve” icebergs, but scientists are monitoring this activity closely to determine whether the frequency of such events is changing.

As part of Nasa’s Operation IceBridge, a fleet of research aircraft fly across the polar regions to measure the impact that climate is having on the ice.

The new iceberg was spotted by the crew on board one of the planes.

Based on Nasa’s information, the Pine Island Glacier now appears to be calving with increased regularity. Icebergs broke off in 2013, 2015, 2017, and now this year, while prior to this such major events only took place around once every six years.

The dynamics of the region has major ramifications for the rest of the world, as Pine Island and the nearby Thwaites Glacier by themselves are contributing 1mm per decade of global sea level rise.

Past research by the British Antarctic Survey concluded that the thinning of the Pine Island Glacier had probably “reached a point of no return”.

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