Massive Iceberg Could Disrupt Shipping Lanes In The Southern Ocean
April 23, 2014

Massive Iceberg Could Disrupt Shipping Lanes In The Southern Ocean

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

An iceberg previously said to be more than eight times the size of Manhattan could soon disrupt shipping lanes as it moves well outside of Pine Island Bay in Antarctica.

The iceberg (called B31), which broke off from Pine Island Glacier in November 2013, is now drifting out of the bay and into the Amundsen Sea off Antarctica’s western banks. Now said to be twice the size of Atlanta (six times the size of Manhattan), B31 will likely become a threat to ships that use the Southern Ocean to make timely deliveries around the world.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, the iceberg measures 255 square miles and could be as much as a mile thick.

“The iceberg is now well out of Pine Island Bay and will soon join the more general flow in the Southern Ocean, which could be east or west in this region,” iceberg researcher Professor Grant Bigg, of the University of Sheffield in England, said in the NASA statement.

Now, as Antarctica is plunged into winter darkness, experts are concerned that they will lose track of B31, making it that much more of a risk in the open waters. And it is unlikely to melt anytime soon, lasting up to a year, according to Robert Marsh, of the University of Southampton, as reported by The Epoch Times.

B31 was produced after scientists noticed a crack along the outer edge of Pine Island Glacier in 2011. Over the next two years, the crack became noticeably larger until November 2013, when the iceberg finally broke free of the glacier. NASA’s Earth Observatory continually monitored the iceberg as it churned in Pine Island Bay before moving out into the sea once the sea ice retreated.

[ Watch the Video: Ice Island B31 Breaks Off From Antarctica, Drifts ]

As of April 11, 2014, the US National Ice Center (NIC) reported that B31 was 18 miles long and 11 miles wide.

“While some mass was lost very early on in the life of B-31, it has remained pretty much the same shape since early December and is still about six times the size of Manhattan,” Bigg said. “Going on measurements of Pine Island glacier before the calving—and hints of partial grounding in the history of the iceberg movement—we think it is possibly 500 meters thick.”

“Iceberg calving is a very normal process,” Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “However, the detachment rift, or crack, that created this iceberg was well upstream of the 30-year average calving front of Pine Island Glacier (PIG), so this a region that warrants monitoring.”

NIC last observed B31 at 72° 23' South latitude, 108° 03' West longitude.