Scientists have located a new iceberg in West Antarctica. A surface crack in the Pine Island Glacier(PIG) has been measured to be 20 miles long and 200 feet deep, and growing.
Scientists expect this new iceberg to break off by the end of the year or early 2012. From U.S. NASA’s measurements in Operation Ice Bridge, the estimated size of the iceberg will be about the size of Berlin, covering about 880 square km.
Satellite and airborne measurements have been monitoring and recording marked thinning of the PIG, linked to climate change. However, this new iceberg is linked to the natural cycle of ice formation and construction that occurs about every 10 years, in a process called calving. So its discovery should not be alarming sign of climate change.
Instead, the major threat the new iceberg offers is for ocean shipping, if it gets in the way of large ships. If the iceberg breaks off and gets picked up by wind and ocean currents, there is the potential for it to move north with the Antarctic Circumpolar current. In addition, large icebergs do affect the local environment, cooling water and dumping millions of tons of freshwater into the marine habitat.
By monitoring the development of the ice crack and the actual breakoff, scientists hope to learn more about ice berg formation and effects in local marine environments.
Still, even at 300 square miles, the chunk is modest by historical standards. In 1956, for instance, the crew of the icebreaker USS Glacier spotted a Belgium-sized berg from Antarctica floating near Scott Island in the South Pacific Ocean.