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February 14, 2001
February 19, 2019

More Breaking News in Antarctica

The latest ice shelf to make headlines is Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Two large rifts in the ice are rapidly stretching toward each other and may soon create a large ice berg.

One rift dubbed Halloween crack began forming in October 2016. Landsat images show it extending from right to left toward a feature called the McDonald Ice Rumples.

Ice rumples form when ice flows over a rocky formation on the sea bed. As the shelf moves toward the ocean, ice collects behind the rock and wrinkles.

The other major crack, reaching from the bottom of the images, also points at the McDonald Ice Rumples. This crack began moving in 2012 after no movement for 35 years. It is now extending toward the rumples at a rate of 4 km per year.

If these cracks meet at the rumples, a massive ice berg could break off, one that covers about 1,700 km2, a little bigger than the island of Oahu. While there have been larger ice bergs breaking off coastal Antarctica in recent years, such a break would add to the overall pattern of ice loss.

The British Antarctic Survey has a research station on the shelf, called Halley Station. It has been moved several times, most recently in 2017 to its current location, referred to as Halley VI Research Station, to get out of the way of the lengthening chasm.

It's unknown exactly how the ice shelf will respond after the presumed upcoming calving. The situation is being monitored closely with Landsat 8 imagery along with Sentinel, WorldView, ground penetrating radar, drone imagery, and a network of GPS stations.

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February 14, 2001
February 19, 2019