In early November 2013, a large iceberg separated from the front of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. It thus began a journey across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea. The ice island, named B31, will likely be swept up soon in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean. The significance of the event is still being sorted out. “Iceberg calving is a very normal process,” noted Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “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.
“B31 has been well-tracked,” said David Jones of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). In January 2013, a few months after a rift was detected in the ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier, Jones and colleagues flew over the region and dropped 37 javelin-shaped Aircraft Deploy-able Ice Observation Systems (ADIOS) onto the ice. ADIOS is basically a GPS tracker, and it is helping researchers monitor the glacier’s movements. Two of the ADIOS javelins were dropped on top of B31 before it broke off from the continent. “Thanks to the early detection of its calving by the IceBridge program, we have been able to study its dynamics from early on in its lifecycle.”
Video uploaded by U Tube user NASAEarthObservatory