An Iceberg Bigger Than Manhattan Just Broke Off From Antarctica

This separate rift was spotted on the Pine Island Glacier in 2016. NASA/Nathan Kurtz

A large iceberg that's considerably larger than Manhattan has broken off from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a large calving event.

Scientists had been watching the glacier since earlier this month, when a large rift was found spreading across the ice in satellite images. The crack started in the middle of the ice shelf and then gradually spread outwards.

Now this large chunk of ice, measuring about 226 square kilometers (87 square miles), has broken off into the Amundsen sea. The iceberg – dubbed B-46 – has already started breaking apart, but the event is a reminder of how climate change is affecting the world’s ice sheets. Calving events of this size used to only happen every six years, but there have been four since 2013.

“What is mostly remarkable about this event is that the frequency of calving seems to increase,” Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing expert from TU Delft, told Earther.

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Pine Island Glacier is now the most quickly receding glacier on Earth, being pushed back almost 5 kilometers (3 miles) further inland than from 2015 to 2017. The retreat is thought to be driven by a warming ocean melting the ice under the sheet.

Mashable noted this was only the sixth-largest calving event from Pine Island Glacier since 2001. But it is the frequency of these events that is most alarming, a sign that world is changing as a result of climate change right before our eyes.

This iceberg is far, far larger than that rectangular iceberg that went viral earlier this month. That one measured a comparatively paltry 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) across, but was particularly unusual for its odd shape.

B-46 probably won’t be rocketing to the top of social media any time soon. But it should serve as a stark reminder, if ever one were needed, of the loss of ice and the potential for sea level rise from a warming ocean.

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According to Live Science, the Pine Island Glacier is losing 45 billion tons (40.8 billion metric tons) of ice every year, which has caused sea levels to rise 1 millimeter (0.03 inches) in eight years. If the whole glacier melted, that would increase to 0.5 meters (1.7 feet).

“Changes at [Pine Island Glacier] in terms of mass loss and ice shelf retreat are perhaps more important for future sea level rise,” Lhermitte added to Earther, noting this region was a “hot spot” for future mass loss for Antarctica.

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