Pine Island Iceberg
November 20, 2001
This image sequence shows the break-off of a large tabular iceberg from the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica as observed by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra spacecraft. This event occurred sometime between November 4th and 12th, 2001, and provides powerful evidence of rapid changes underway in this area of Antarctica. The dimensions of the iceberg are approximately 42 kilometers by 17 kilometers (26 miles by 11 miles). Pine Island Glacier is the largest discharger of ice in Antarctica and the continent’s fastest moving glacier. It is located in an area of the West Antarctic ice sheet that is believed to be the most susceptible to collapse, making the evolution of this glacier of great interest to the scientific community.
The newly hatched berg, the largest such event ever witnessed in this region, represents nearly seven years of ice outflow from Pine Island Glacier released to the ocean in a single event. The climatic significance of this calving event is not yet clear. However, when combined with previous measurements from MISR and data from other instruments cataloguing the retreat of the glacier’s grounding line, its accelerating ice flow, and the steady decrease in the sea ice cover in front of the glacier, it provides scientists with additional evidence of rapid change in the region.