nasa b-31 iceberg satellite view

Iceberg the Size of Singapore Breaks Off Into the Southern Ocean

Rob Almeida
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November 22, 2013

Between November 9 – 11, 2013, an iceberg measuring 21 miles by 12 miles broke off from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier.  This is roughly the same size as Singapore was back in the mid 20th century.

Named B-31, this 700-square kilometer block of ice will be tracked via satellite and monitored by the U.S. National Ice Center.

Considering the fact it hasn’t ventured far from Antarctica yet, and it has the radar cross section of a giant iceberg, it doesn’t post a hazard to navigation at this point.  NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt adds that “Icebergs move pretty slowly, and watching this iceberg will be a waiting game.”

SEE ALSO: Scientists Tracking Massive Iceberg Near Antarctica

NASA’s cryosphere program manager Tom Wagner notes that such events happen every five or six years and that the calving of this iceberg isn’t surprising.  The Pine Island Glacier he notes, moves forward at roughly 4 kilometers per year.

Where will it go?

B-31 still has a ways to go in order for it to hit the open ocean as the below image shows (B-31 is top-right).

nasa b-31 iceberg satellite view

Once this berg clears the bay, which direction it goes, either via the “circumpolar current” or the “coastal counter current” is dependent on the vertical shape and depth of the iceberg according to NASA scientist emeritus Robert Bindschadler. “Where it is going depends on the deeper currents into which its keel extends,” he said.

According to NASA, larger icebergs with deeper keels tend to drift with the deeper, cyclonic circumpolar current, while sea ice and smaller bergs with shallower keels tend to drift with the coastal counter current.

The following satellite images were taken by Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite on November 13 (top) and October 28, 2013, respectively.

pine island glacier calving


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