State of the Planet

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Watch an Antarctic Iceberg in the Making

A crack discovered last fall in Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier can be seen in this satellite photo. Credit: NASA

What does a glacier about to spawn an iceberg the size of New York City look like? A new animation from NASA flies you through the 19-mile crack that is slowly tearing Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier apart.

The crack was discovered last fall by a team of scientists flying over Pine Island Glacier under NASA’s Ice Bridge campaign to measure ice loss at the poles. One of the fastest retreating glaciers on the continent, Pine Island Glacier is now sliding into the sea 50 percent faster than it was in the early 1990s.

At the time the crack was discovered, in late October, it measured 60 yards across and 50 yards deep and scientists estimated it would break into an iceberg within months. As the wait continues, scientists wrote last week in EOS, a newspaper published by the American Geophysical Union, that the iceberg will be at least 50 percent larger than any previous calving event observed at Pine Island.

Lamont-Doherty’s Kirsty Tinto and Michael Wolovick, a postdoctoral researcher and graduate student respectively, were part of the NASA team that flew over the crevasse collecting the measurements used in the animation. “It’s impressive to see something like a glacier calving an iceberg with your own eyes—it makes it real,” said Wolovick.

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