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Pine Island Glacier spawns PIGlets

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.

Orbital view, dark ocean water on left, glacier on right with long cracks in it.
Image via ESA.

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.


February 11, 2020
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