Massive 100-Mile Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica, Reveals Worrying Glacial Retreat

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On Saturday, a satellite observation specialist at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands named Stef Lhermitte, took Twitter to post a satellite image showing that the glacier had calved, as a piece of about 103 square miles -more than four times the size of Manhattan-in size broke off from Pine Island. "But this means that we would expect another calving event very soon".

Knut Christianson, a glaciologist at the University of Washington, tells The Washington Post that calving events are quite normal. "[It's] not unprecedented, but this glacier is concerning for future sea level rise", Neff posted on Twitter on Sunday.

Considered the fastest-melting region in the South Pole, the glacier is pushing 45 billion tons of water into the sea every year, a pace that has only sped up over the last 40 years, according to Nature Climate Change. Experts say the Pine Island Glacier contains about 1.7 feet of possible global sea level rise.

Last fall, NASA's Operation IceBridge mission snapped a photo of the rift in Pine Island Glacier that would lead to the latest calving event. This glacier experienced a 225 square mile calving in 2015 and a 252 square mile calving in 2013.

A research flight snapped this image of the glaciers and mountains of West Antarctica on October 29, 2014. It flows into Pine Island Bay, by the Amundsen Sea.

Researchers at the University of OH released a paper previous year stating that the weakened glaciers are likely caused by a warming ocean.

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In the past, the Pine Island Glacier has broken at one side, and that crack traveled to the other side, leading to a calved iceberg, Jeong said.

"This results in smaller but more-frequent calving events", said Christianson.

Experts believe warmer ocean temperatures reaching the "grounding line" -the point where the floating portion of the iceberg touches the seafloor-are responsible for Pine Island Glacier losing so much ice in recent years. Icebergs float, so they won't cause sea levels to rise unless the water within them melts, he said. As these edges wear away, the rest of the glacier is more likely to melt into the ocean, he said.

Gizmodo got in touch with Christopher A. Shuman, a research scientist within the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who established the break using the MODIS and Landsat 8 satellites. "This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes".

In the meantime, there's not much they can do except watch the glacier break apart piece by piece.