Another giant iceberg calved in East Antarctica | Polarjournal
Tabular icebergs are parts of ice shelves that protrude into the sea along the coast in Antarctica and slow down the glaciers behind them. Large icebergs like this one with an edge length of more than 30 kilometers are not only pretty photo motifs, but also objects of research. (Photo: Dr Michael Wenger)

When huge icebergs with several hundred square kilometers in size form in Antarctica, scientists look very closely. When it happens in an area where an ice shelf has just disintegrated almost completely, the alarm bells start ringing. This is again the case in East Antarctica, as reported by authorities from Australia and the USA.

According to Jan Lieser of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and confirmed by Christopher Readinger of the U.S. National Ice Centre (USNIC), an iceberg of about 27.7 kilometers (15 nautical miles) long and 14.8 kilometers (8 nautical miles) wide broke off from Scott Glacier on April 22, 2022, and is now currently lying off the Shackleton ice shelf. The ice colossus, which covers about 411 square kilometers, was given the designation C-39, which corresponds to the third quadrant of Antarctica (western Ross Sea to Wilkesland) and is the 39th iceberg to break off in the region and to be confirmed by USNIC.

Iceberg C-39 is still offshore of Scott Glacier, which is part of the Shackleton Ice Shelf. Its size is about the area of the city of Cologne or a little more than half of the city of New York. Image: Jonathan Holloway, USNIC

The site of the breakup, Scott Glacier, is located in the Australian sector of Antarctica and is just under 450 kilometers west of the Australian station of Casey. The glacier is part of the Shackleton Ice Shelf, a nearly 34,000 square kilometer ice shelf in Wilkes Land, East Antarctica, which is one of the ten largest ice shelves on the white continent. The calving of C-39 was detected and confirmed on images from the Sentinel-1A satellite, the USNIC said in a news release.

The Shackleton Ice Shelf is located just under 450 kilometers from the Australian station of Casey. Only recently, the smaller Conger Ice Shelf here became the first shelf in East Antarctica to break apart completely. Map: Dr Michael Wenger via Google Earth

The formation of the huge iceberg in the region is now the third major calving event within a few weeks. The region around the Shackleton Ice Shelf had made headlines worldwide as recently as mid-March because the formation of iceberg C-38 and the subsequent collapse of the Conger Ice Shelf marked the first time such a breakup of an ice shelf had been recorded in East Antarctica. The reasons why the ice shelf broke apart are still under investigation. However, experts suspect an influence of unusually high temperatures measured in the region in the weeks before. Warmer water from the north, which could have added to the ice shelf from below, is also suspected as a cause.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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