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Massive Iceberg Six Times the Size of Manhattan Watched in Antarctica (VIDEO)

First Posted: Apr 24, 2014 08:37 AM EDT
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In early November, a massive iceberg separated from Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. Since then, it's drifted across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea. Now, NASA has revealed new images of this veritable ice island, now named B31, which will likely continue its trek across the Southern Ocean.

During the Antarctic spring and summer, NASA used the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) in order to capture a series of images of B31. As of April 11, 2013, the chunk of ice was 18 by 11 nautical miles in size-about six times the size of Manhattan. While it's not unusual to have an iceberg part from a glacier, it is somewhat unusual to have one of this size from this location.

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

As our climate continues to change and as temperatures warm, scientists have kept a close eye on the Pine Island Glacier. This glacier in particular has thinned and drained rapidly over the past two decades, and may be one of the largest contributors to sea level rise. It's also important to track moving ice islands like B31, since it can pose hazards to ships.

"We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly. It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow," said Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield, who has been tracking the ice island with synthetic aperture radar, in a news release. "There were a couple of occasions early on when there might have been partial grounding or collisions with the seafloor, as B31 bounced from one side of the Bay to the other."

Currently, researchers are continuing to track the ice island as it continues its trek across the ocean.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of NASA.

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