A huge iceberg has calved – cracked off – the Pine Island Glacier (know as ‘PIG’ for short) in Antarctica, according to a report on February 11, 2020, from ESA. At over 115 square miles (300 square km), about the size of the island nation of Malta, this huge berg very quickly broke into many ‘PIGlet’ pieces.
The new iceberg was not unexpected. Thanks to satellite images, two large rifts in the glacier were spotted last year and scientists have been keeping a close eye on how quickly these cracks were growing.
The animation above uses 57 radar images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite mission between February 2019 and February 2020 (the last frame is from February 11, 2020) and shows just how quickly the emerging cracks grew and led to this calving event.
According to a statement from ESA:
Pine Island Glacier, along with its neighbor Thwaites Glacier, connect the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with the ocean – together discharging significant quantities of ice into the ocean. These two glaciers have been losing ice over the last 25 years … Since the early 1990s, the Pine Island Glacier’s ice velocity has increased dramatically to values which exceed 10 meters (30 feet) a day. Its floating ice front, which has an average thickness of approximately 500 meters (1,600 feet), has experienced a series of calving events over the past 30 years, some of which have abruptly changed the shape and position of the ice front.
Bottom line: Video shows iceberg cracking off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.