·

Decades-long growing rift in Brunt Ice Shelf finally breaks, creating new iceberg, Antarctica

a-81 iceberg brunt ice shelf antarctica january 24 2023 sentinel-3 piere markuse f

On January 22, 2023, a massive rift on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica finally gave way, resulting in the formation of a new iceberg measuring 1 550 km2 (~600 mi2). The U.S. National Ice Center has named it Iceberg A-81. The rift, spanning most of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, appeared ready to spawn an iceberg in 2019, posing an uncertain future for scientific infrastructure and a human presence on the shelf that was first established in 1955 by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

Known as Chasm 1, this rift had been growing for decades. It began to grow in the 1970s, went dormant for a period, and then resumed growth in 2012. In early 2019, it was extending by as much as 4 km (2.5 miles) per year. However, even this growth spurt slowed down until the Antarctic summer of 2022-2023, when the chasm accelerated and broke past the McDonald Ice Rumples, a submerged knob of bedrock that had been holding this part of the shelf in place.

Freshly calved Iceberg A-81 at the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica - 24 January 2023

The breaking of icebergs from ice shelves is a natural process, but the timing and size of this event has raised some questions among scientists.

The BAS’s Halley Research Station, which is located on the shelf and studies Earth, atmospheric, and space weather processes, was relocated farther inland in 2016 as the chasm widened. Fortunately, it was not affected by the recent break.

The breaking (calving) of icebergs from ice shelves is part of a natural, cyclical process of growth and decay at the limits of Earth’s ice sheets.1

As glacial ice flows from land and spreads out over the sea, shelf areas farthest from shore grow thinner. These areas are stressed by storms and tides and thin as they are melted from above or below, ultimately making them more prone to forming rifts and breaking away.

New Iceberg calving, Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica - 24 January 2023
Decades-long growing rift in Brunt Ice Shelf finally breaks, creating new iceberg, Antarctica
Image credit: NASA Terra/MODIS. Acquired on January 24, 2023

References:

1 Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf Finally Breaks – Earth Observatory – January 24, 2023

Featured image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-3. Processed by Pierre Markuse

If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.

Share:


Your support makes a difference

Dear valued reader,

We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.

The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.

If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.

Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum.

Other support options include Patreon pledges, one-off payments using PayPal and purchasing products from our webshop.

Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Teo Blašković

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us on Patreon

support us on patreon

or by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:


Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules:

  • Treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Stay on topic and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Do not use abusive or hateful language.
  • Do not spam or promote unrelated products or services.
  • Do not post any personal information or content that is illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.

We reserve the right to remove any comments that violate these rules. By commenting on our website, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for helping to create a positive and welcoming environment for all.

2 Comments

  1. Dear Teo,
    in the article above your first sentence mentions the size of the iceberg,”On January 22, 2023, a massive rift on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica finally gave way, resulting in the formation of a new iceberg measuring 1 550 m2 (~600 mi2).”
    The size in metric, 1 550 m2, should be in km2.
    I like the articles you post.
    Greetings,
    Ab.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *