Skip to main content

City-size iceberg drifting away from Antarctica

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 2:31 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier.
In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iceberg could last in open ocean for a year, researcher says
  • Sea ice that kept berg close to Antarctica now melting, scientist says
  • Iceberg separated from glacier in July

(CNN) -- A massive iceberg that broke off an Antarctic glacier in July is now moving toward the open ocean and could pose a threat to busy shipping lanes, researchers reported.

The huge berg is estimated to be about 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) in area, about the size of nation of Singapore or double the size of the city of Atlanta.

"An iceberg that size could survive for a year or longer and it could drift a long way north in that time and end up in the vicinity of world shipping lanes in the Southern Ocean," Robert Marsh, a scientist at the University of Southampton in England, said in a press release this week.

Detecting the dangers of Greenland's giant icebergs

The crack that produced the iceberg is seen in October 2011.
The crack that produced the iceberg is seen in October 2011.

Marsh is part of a team of scientists who have been given an emergency grant to track the iceberg and predict its path so ships traveling through the area can be alerted.

Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, using images from the German Space Agency's TerraSAR-X satellite, reported in July that the iceberg was separating from the Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. It had been kept close to the glacier by sea ice, another researcher, Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield, told the BBC. But the end of the Antarctic winter has melted some of the sea ice and given the berg a route to the open ocean, he said.

"In the last couple of days, it has begun to break away and now a kilometer or two of clear water has developed between it and the glacier," Bigg told the BBC.

The calving of the massive berg has been a long process. The crack that produced it was first detected by a NASA plane in October 2011.

The researchers say this will be the first time to track the path of such a massive iceberg, something that will be more important as the effects of global warming increase.

Antarctic ice shelves 'tearing apart,' says study

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 11:35 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 5:26 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 11:52 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT