The Pine Island Glacier is the fastest melting glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, receding by about 2.5 miles a year. This year a huge crack, first discovered in October 2011 finally broke, creating an iceberg that measures 278 square miles, making it roughly the same size as the country of Singapore, and eight times larger than the island of Manhattan.
The iceberg officially broke free of the ice sheet on the 8th of July this year, and after nearly six months floating in the bay where it was born, it is finally heading out to sea, where it could pose a serious threat to ships and tanker if it crosses international shipping lanes.
The huge crack discovered in 2011 which eventually created the mega iceberg.
Grant Bigg, and ocean modeller at the University of Sheffield, said that strong winds blowing off Antarctica have helped to push the giant away from land after warmer weather and water in the Southern Hemisphere worked to melt the winter ice sheet that had been helping to hold it in place since July. Now satellite images are showing a couple of miles of open water between the iceberg and its parent glacier.
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Icebergs that break off from West Antarctica often stick close to the coast, but occasionally they can find their way into open waters, close to South America’s Cape Horn, posing a problem for shipping companies.
Bigg has said that he and his colleagues will try to draw up models to predict the movement of the iceberg up to a year in advance, including any smaller bergs that break off in time. This will be vital to help the shipping industry plan their routes and reduce the chance of any collisions.
Bigg explained that “each of the last three years has seen a giant iceberg calve, from either Greenland or Antarctica. Being able to track and forecast the tracks of these huge blocks of ice will be a major benefit to the shipping industry, particularly as more ships begin to use polar waters, as Arctic sea ice melts. This ability is what we aim to develop.”
Whilst people might assume that global warming is responsible for the formation of this mega iceberg, Emily Deemer wrote an article for Good Nature, stating that the real culprit is actually a change in wind direction which is pushing warm water under the ice shelf and causing it to melt.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com