Mammoth iceberg may break off from Antarctic ice shelf: Scientists

New Delhi: One of the largest icebergs at the South Pole is poised to break off from Antarctic ice shelf, say scientists. The deep crack in the Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf continues to cut across the ice.

While the iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf.

It has tripled in speed to more than ten metres per day between June 24 and 27, according to scientists of Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project.

When it eventually gives way, one of the largest icebergs on record will be set adrift.

Monitored by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar pair, the crack in the ice is now around 200 kilometres (km) long, leaving just five km between the end of the fissure and the ocean.

European Space Agency’s (ESA) CryoSat Earth Explorer satellite carries a radar altimeter that will measure the height of the ice surface before the 6,000 square kilometre iceberg is spawned.

The information is used to work out how the thickness of sea ice and land ice is changing and, consequently, how the volume of Earth’s ice is being affected by the climate.

“Using information from CryoSat, we have mapped the elevation of the ice above the ocean and worked out that the eventual iceberg will be about 190 metres thick and contain about 1,155 cubic kilometres of ice,” said Noel Gourmelen from the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

“We have also estimated that the depth below sea level could be as much as 210 metres,” Gourmelen said.

Icebergs calve from Antarctica all the time, but because this one is particularly large, its path across the ocean needs to be monitored as it could pose a hazard to maritime traffic.