A photo from NASA shows that a piece of the largest iceberg that separated from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf is already nearing its final voyage.
The largest iceberg, called B-15, that broke away in March 2000 has been drifting and being pounded by the strong force of the wind and the sea for 18 years now.
B-15 measured about 160 nautical miles long and 20 nautical miles wide and nearly comparable to the size of Connecticut.
As B-15 continued to drift, however, it was divided into smaller fragments which have melted along through its journey. Only four huge pieces remain. While they all meet the minimum size needed to remain traceable by the National Ice Center, one of them is nearing its death.
Dying Near The Equator
The dying iceberg is called the B-15Z. A photograph snapped on May 22 by astronauts aboard the International Space Station revealed that B-15Z currently measures 10 nautical miles long and 5 nautical miles wide.
NASA said the iceberg's size remained "trackable." However, the agency believed it will not stay at this size for long. If it continues its journey, it will eventually disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces. The photo, in fact, showed a huge fissure at its center and several tiny pieces of the iceberg are already falling off from its edges.
B-15Z Journey In Antarctica
In October 2017, coastal countercurrent brought B-15Z about three-quarters of the way around Antarctica. It reached farther south until making it to the Southern Ocean which was already off the edges of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Ocean current had once again pushed B-15Z north into the southern Atlantic Ocean that by May when the photo was taken, the iceberg was already nearing 150 nautical miles northwest of the South Georgia islands.
"Icebergs that make it this far have been known to rapidly melt and end their life cycles here," NASA explained.
B-15Z 'Cause Of Death'
Kelly Brunt, a NASA glaciologist, explained that its distant location, close to the equator, may have brought B-15Z its demise.
"They tend to pond with water, which then works its way through the iceberg like a set of knives," Brunt explained.
The announcement from NASA did not mention whether factors brought by climate change contributed to its melting or whether the iceberg's death could impact the global sea level rising.
In April, however, a study noted that ice sheet in Antarctica is melting underwater at a rate five times faster than what experts previously predicted. The main culprit is the warm ocean water that is eating away at the ice found underneath the seabed.
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that 565 square miles of underwater ice had already disintegrated between 2010 and 2016. It also found that Antarctica's ice glaciers have been receding at a rate of 82 feet per year.