Giant iceberg breaks off Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica

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Published on 2 March 2021

A giant iceberg, approximately 1.5 times the size of Greater Paris, broke off from the northern section of Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday 26th February. New radar images, captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, show the 1270 sq km iceberg breaking free and moving away rapidly from the floating ice shelf.

Glaciologists have been closely monitoring the many cracks and chasms that have formed in the 150 m thick Brunt Ice Shelf over the past years. In late-2019, a new crack was spotted in the portion of the ice shelf north of the McDonald Ice Rumples, heading towards another large crack near the Stancomb-Wills Glacier Tongue.

This latest rift was closely monitored by satellite imagery, as it was seen quickly cutting across the ice shelf. Recent ice surface velocity data derived from Sentinel-1 data indicated the region north of the new crack to be the most unstable – moving around 5 m per day. Then, in the early hours of Friday 26th, the newer crack widened rapidly before finally breaking free from the rest of the floating ice shelf.

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