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Antarctic Ice Shelf Gives Birth To Two Giant Icebergs, ESA Captures Images

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The Antarctica's Nansen ice shelf gave birth to two giant icebergs, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported.

Images of the separation of two giant icebergs from the Nansen ice shelf on April 7 were captured by multiple satellites including ESA's Sentinels. The images showed the drifting of the icebergs towards the northeast.

The two icebergs broke off from the ice shelf due to strong offshore winds and have been propelled by strong tides and currents.

ESA's Sentinel-2A, Sentinel-1A and Italian Cosmo-Skymed mission captured images of ice near the Drygalski Ice Tongue, which have already been delicately attached to the Nansen ice shelf early March of 2016.

The fracture observed on the ice shelf grew to 40 kilometers between Inexpressible Island and the Drygalski Ice Tongue of the David Glacier by April 6.

Over the recent years, the Nansen ice shelf has developed a fracture caused by global warming. In global warming, warm air melts the top surface of the ice while warm water softens the hidden part of the iceberg.

"The crack was first observed during fieldwork in 1999 and was progressively growing, and then accelerating during 2014," said Massimo Frezzotti from the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) research organization, Italy.

Frezzotti added that this event is normal for ice calving. The first ice calving happened between 1913 and 1950 and the second happened between 1963 and 1972.

On April 7, the third ice calving happened. Confirmed by Sentinel-1A and NASA's Terra Satellite, the ice fronts separated from the Nansen ice shelf, giving birth to the two giant icebergs.

The icebergs measure about 10 kilometers and 20 kilometers in length and 5 kilometers wide. Its thickness is said to be about 250 to 270 meters thick.

According to experts, the drifting of the icebergs does not pose any immediate danger to routes going to research stations such as the South Korean Jang Bogo Research Station located at Terra Nova Bay, but could affect sea floor moorings used by the National Antarctic Programme from Italy and ocean scientists from New Zealand.

"History has shown that major calving typically occurs about every 30 years," said Frezzotti.

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