Brunt on the Brink

#Antarctic, #Snow & Ice

Published on 4 July 2019

Two very large cracks have been growing on the Brunt Ice Shelf. Located in East Antarctica, the floating ice shelf is separated from the ocean by the iceberg calving front, where smaller pieces of ice break of regularly.

Location of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica

Location of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica

Scientists have been using Earth observation satellites to keep an eye on the fractures and measure ice speed. But when the two massive fractures eventually meet, an iceberg larger than London (1,594 km²) will break off. 

In 2015 the British Antarctic Survey Halley VI research base located on the Brunt Ice Shelf was already moved to a new safe position. 

Chasm 1 has been around for a while and began to grow more rapidly in 2014. It is now 55 km long. The Halloween Crack, discovered 31st October 2016, is now over 60 km long. At the end of May, only a 5 km bridge of ice separated the two fractures. We could be just weeks away from the biggest iceberg calving event ever observed on the Brunt Ice Shelf. 

University of Leeds scientists will process Copernicus satellite data after the calving event. This data set will help researchers understand how the Antarctic may change in the future. 

This video was made by the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), a NERC Centre of Excellence that studies processes in the Earth’s polar latitudes that can affect the Earth’s albedo, polar atmosphere and ocean circulation, and global sea level