NASA scientists have captured close-up images of a massive iceberg, the size of Delaware, that had detached from one of Antarctica’s largest floating ice shelves in July.
The photos were captured as part of Operation Icebridge, an initiative led by the U.S. space agency that observers, measures, and images polar ice on the planet.
The A-68 Iceberg
The iceberg, named A-68, which measures 2,200 square miles, had broken away from the Larsen C iceberg in Antarctica during summer. Scientists have said that the iceberg’s volume is two times that of Lake Erie and it contains so much mass that if all of it were added again to the ocean then it would lead to nearly three millimeters rise in global sea level.
The iceberg’s detachment, however, will not impact global sea level on its own since it was already afloat on the ocean, but it has put the larger Larsen C ice shelf’s destabilization into question, according to scientists.
There is also an ongoing debate over whether the iceberg’s detachment could have been caused by climate change in any way. However, at present, researchers do not have all the required data to understand what is happening in the floating Larsen C ice shelf’s environment, which is impacted by the ocean temperatures beneath it in addition to the air temperature above.
Operation IceBridge Captures Images Of A-68
Operation IceBridge flew a repertoire of airborne instruments over the Larsen C Shelf on Nov. 12. Nathan Kurtz, a scientist with Operation IceBridge who was part of the mission, added that though he knew that the iceberg was massive, he was still unprepared for the real glimpse.
A-68 is reportedly so huge that it still looks like a part of the ice shelf, and only on close attention can one spot the thin line of water between the iceberg and where the shelf’s new front begins.
“I was shocked, because we flew over the iceberg itself and it looks like it’s still part of the ice shelf, in terms of how large it is and the surface texture,” Kurtz said. “To see it fully detached, to see this massive block of ice floating out there, was pretty shocking.”
The mission was aimed at getting more than a surficial look at the ice shelf. It is focused on understanding the whole system, including getting information about the bathymetry of the bedrock below. For now, the images of the Delaware-sized iceberg can be seen here.