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Iceberg Twice Size of Atlanta Poses Risk to Antarctica Shipping

Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 04:56 PM

By Angela Deines

An iceberg twice the size of Atlanta broke off the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica in November and scientists worry it could be trouble for ships during Antarctica's long winter.

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The iceberg is believed to be 255 square miles in size and more than a third of a mile thick, says a report on NASA's Earth Observatory site, twice the size of the city of Atlanta or six times the size of Manhattan.

Officials predict the ice island will get swept into the swift currents of the Southern Ocean, posing a risk to ships in the open water, and will be difficult to observe in the Amundsen Sea as winter darkness descends upon Antarctica.

NASA scientists are watching the iceberg and the area it came from closely, as the crack that caused it appeared in an unusual area.

“Iceberg calving is a very normal process,” said Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in the report. “However, the detachment rift, or crack, that created this iceberg was well upstream of the 30-year average calving front of Pine Island Glacier, so this is a region that warrants monitoring.”

A NASA time lapse video shows the movement of the iceberg last winter and early spring.

Story continues below video.

“We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly,” added University of Sheffield researcher Grant Bigg, who has been tracking the iceberg. “It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow.”

Bigg said there appears to be evidence that the iceberg may have been grounded or collided with the ocean floor as it “bounced from one side of the (Pine Island) Bay to the other,” he said.

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