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Breaking Sea Ice
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Breaking Sea Ice

January 19, 2005
After remaining a solid mass throughout Southern Hemisphere spring and the first part of summer, sea ice in McMurdo Sound finally began to break into pieces in January 2005. McMurdo Sound passes through an annual cycle in which thick ice freezes on the water during Antarctica's frigid winter, then breaks and drifts into the Ross Sea during the summer. By late spring in early November, a channel of ice has typically been swept from the Sound. This year, the process was disrupted by the giant B-15A iceberg. Topping 129 kilometers (80 miles) in length, the Long Island-sized iceberg blocked the currents that usually clear out the Sound. As late as the first week of January, the ice in the Sound remained intact. In early January, temperatures rose and a powerful storm moved over Antarctica. Flights scheduled to carry supplies to the McMurdo Station (United States) and Scott Base (New Zealand) research stations near McMurdo Sound were delayed due to the fierce weather. Strong winds churned the ocean and, along with warmer temperatures, may have contributed to the break-up of the ice. When the clouds cleared on January 13, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard NASA's Terra satellite revealed that the formerly solid ice had been broken into chunks.