Satellite images have captured the moment that an iceberg five times the size of Malta broke away from the Brunt ice shelf in Antarctica. The iceberg had been monitored since 2012 after the first crack was discovered, and scientists have been predicting its calving for years since.
The European Space Agency‘s (ESA) satellite Copernicus was able to provide detailed before and after images of the broken-off iceberg after working closely with glaciologists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
The iceberg reportedly broke off on the evening of January 22nd, 2023, during a spring tide. Fortunately, the Halley research base had been moved in 2017 to a safer location and so was unaffected by the break-off.
ESA’s Mark Drinkwater said, “After several years of iceberg calving watch, the long-awaited separation of the Brunt iceberg A81 has finally taken place.” He added, “Thanks to Copernicus, coupled with in-situ and airborne measurements made by the British Antarctic Survey, the safety of the Halley Base has been preserved.”
Iceberg calving is entirely natural, and glaciologists at the BAS were keen to stress that this recent breakoff was not caused by climate change.
Dominic Hodgson, BAS glaciologist, said, “this calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behavior of the Brunt Ice Shelf. It is not linked to climate change. Our science and operational teams continue to monitor the ice shelf in real-time to ensure it is safe and to maintain the delivery of the science we undertake at Halley.”
The ice sheets are routinely monitored by satellites to keep track of events happening in remote regions and show how ice shelves are actively responding to changes in ice dynamics, air and ocean temperatures. Just recently satellite images of Antartica led scientists to discover a new Emperor penguin colony using evidence of their poop.