Glacier in Antarctica does what glaciers do

From NASA, who has moved up from “Manhattans” to quarter states as a scale comparison unit:

Antarctic Glacier Calves Iceberg One-Fourth Size of Rhode Island

Image of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf from the German Aerospace Center Earth monitoring satellite TerraSAR-X captured on July 8, 2013.

Image of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf from the German Aerospace Center Earth monitoring satellite TerraSAR-X captured on July 8, 2013. Image Credit: DLR> Click to View larger

This week a European Earth-observing satellite confirmed that a large iceberg broke off of Pine Island Glacier, one of Antarctica’s largest and fastest moving ice streams.

The rift that led to the new iceberg was discovered in October 2011 during NASA’s Operation IceBridge flights over the continent. The rift soon became the focus of international scientific attention. Seeing the rift grow and eventually form a 280-square-mile ice island gave researchers an opportunity to gather data that promises to improve our understanding of how glaciers calve.

“Calving is a hot topic in cryospheric research. The physics behind the calving process are highly complex,” said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. 

 Crack in the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf seen NASA's DC-8 flew over the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf on Oct. 14, 2011 as part of the agency's Operation IceBridge.
Crack in the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf seen NASA’s DC-8 flew over the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf on Oct. 14, 2011 as part of the agency’s Operation IceBridge.
Image Credit:
NASA / Michael Studinger
View of the Pine Island Glacier rift seen from the Digital Mapping System camera aboard NASA's DC-8 on Oct. 26, 2011.
View of the Pine Island Glacier rift seen from the Digital Mapping System camera aboard NASA’s DC-8 on Oct. 26, 2011.
Image Credit:
NASA / DMS

Although calving events like this are a regular and important part of an ice sheet’s life cycle—Pine Island Glacier previously spawned large icebergs in 2001 and 2007—they often raise questions about how ice sheet flow is changing and what the future might hold. Computer models are one of the methods researchers use to project future ice sheet changes, but calving is a complicated process that is not well represented in continent-scale models.

Days after spotting the rift, IceBridge researchers flew a survey along 18 miles of the crack to measure its width and depth and collect other data such as ice shelf thickness. “It was a great opportunity to fly a suite of instruments you can’t use from space and gather high-resolution data on the rift,” said Studinger.

Soon after, researchers at the German Aerospace Center, or DLR, started keeping a close eye on the crack from space with their TerraSAR-X satellite. Because TerraSAR-X uses a radar instrument it is able to make observations even during the dark winter months and through clouds. “Since October 2011, the evolution of the Pine Island Glacier terminus area has been monitored more intensively,” said Dana Floricioiu, a DLR research scientist, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

When IceBridge scientists returned to Pine Island Glacier in October of 2012, the rift had widened and was joined by a second crack first spotted that May. The close-up data gathered by the instruments aboard NASA’s DC-8 gave a view of the ice that added to TerraSAR-X observations. “It’s a perspective I hadn’t had before,” said Joseph MacGregor, a glaciologist at the Institute for Geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin, one of IceBridge’s partnering organizations. “Before, I was always looking nearly straight down.”

In the time since discovering the rift scientists have been gathering data on how changes in the environment might affect calving rates. For ocean-terminating glaciers like Pine Island Glacier the calving process takes place in a floating ice shelf where stresses like wind and ocean currents cause icebergs to break off. By gathering data on changes to ocean temperature and increasing surface melt rates, researchers are working toward implementing the physics of calving—a calving law—in computer simulations.

The data collected since 2011 is one step in building an understanding of calving and further research and cooperation is needed to understand not only calving but how Antarctica’s ice sheets and glaciers will change in the future. The unique combination of airborne and orbiting instruments that closely watched this recent calving event was the result of a spontaneous collaboration between researchers in the field. “It was at the level of colleagues coming together,” said Studinger. “It was a really nice collaboration.”

For more information on Operation Ice Bridge, visit:

www.nasa.gov/Icebridge

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72 thoughts on “Glacier in Antarctica does what glaciers do

  1. Lets see ice calving.

    Step 1. Ice grow over ocean
    Step 2. Tidal action and wave action moves ice up and down.
    Step 3. Ice weakens and occasional warm water rots ice from underneath.
    Step 4. Ice cracks somewhere.
    Step 5. Ice breaks up.

    There, no need for models.

  2. “researchers are working toward implementing the physics of calving—a calving law—in computer simulations.”

    Wonderful. More computer models, that may or may not bear any semblance to reality. What good will they do? I suppose if you can predict a calving event to the millisecond, cruise ships could be there to witness the event.

  3. The physics behind the calving process are highly complex,” said Michael Studinger
    ======
    …and we need to know this………….why?

  4. “Computer models are one of the methods researchers use to project future ice sheet changes, but calving is a complicated process that is not well represented in continent-scale models.”

    So yet more confirmation that computer models are simply rubbish!

  5. Perhaps they should use Connecticut as a unit of measure as the headline appears to have lost a CT from the middle of Antarctica

  6. Pine Island Glacier previously spawned large icebergs in 2001 and 2007
    ==============
    2007-2001 = 6
    2007 + 6 = 2013

    right on schedule. talk about complex. prediction. Next large iceberg

    2013 + 6 = 2019

    can I have my trillion dollar grant for a new computer to help protect the earth from the ravages of global warming, climate change, climate disruption, titanic icebergs.

  7. I found it interesting that the size of the ice was in Rhode Island units. So I thought I would look at the Arctic panic in units of area of states equivalent.

    If the Arctic summer melt was to reduce the Arctic ice to 4 Million square kilometers then all the CAGW Jeremiahs would be out in force talking of death spirals and ‘iceless poles’ and of course weather wierding due to lack of ice…

    So what is 4 million square kilometers in the new ‘State Area Metric’?

    4 million square kilometers is equivalent to the area of: Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, :Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia combined

    As you can see that would be hardly enough room to swing a polar bear.

    (check my maths using values from http://geography.about.com/od/usmaps/a/states-area.htm)

  8. Rhode Island is 1544 square miles, so 1/4 of that would be about 386 square miles.
    That equals (rounded) 17 Manhattans. Handy conversion factor: 1 Rhode Island
    = 67.13 Manhattans.

  9. Doug Procttor says:
    July 13, 2013 at 7:15 am
    And, of course, floating glaciers do no raise sea level.
    >>>>>>>

    I tried to explain this simple fact to a warmer once. He explained that if he filled his glass with soda, and then threw in ice cubes, the glass would overflow. He had no clue how stupid his response was.

    He wasn’t a blond, he was a warmer!

  10. “Kaboom says:

    July 13, 2013 at 10:00 am”

    No! That’s New South Wales, it’s bigger than Texas!

    • Save the Glaciers – save the climate – stop CO2 production – create millions of jobs . . free GREEN energy . .

      A BOLD NEW ENERGY POLICY TO SAVE THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE!!!

      We put millions of skilled workers on manufacturing jobs building 500 to 1,000 Nuclear power plant of a low cost standard design. This will provide all the energy to accomplish a full restoration of our industrial base. How will this happen you ask?

      First we “MINE” the oceans for gold, silver, copper, uranium, methane, manganese and other valuable minerals and metals. It has been estimated that it will be profitable to mine gold from the seas at around $ 3,000 per ounce. Second we use cheap nuclear power to extract these metals which could make a profit to pay off the national debt. Third we use the byproduct “WATER” to farm the huge vacant dry south west feeding the entire planet with low cost food.

      Finally we use the cheap nuclear power to build factories to manufacture everything the entire planet needs and we return to zero unemployment and can pay good wages because we have free energy that makes a profit in it’s creation.The money generated can payoff all debts, build nuclear reprocessing plants, research and develop a system to render nuclear waste harmless.

      Just think, full employment, no energy crisis ever, gold to make money valuable, make the dollar the strongest currency on earth, end inflation, end government debt. Just imagine “AMERICA REBORN AND THE DREAM FULFILLED!!!

  11. What’s all the fuss. A calving Pine Island glacier tells me that the glacier is healthy and growing. Receding glaciers are what warmists should worry themselves about.

  12. …“Calving is a hot topic in cryospheric research. The physics behind the calving process are highly complex,” said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist…

    Like the rest of you, I just can’t see that. It’s a long bar, pushed out over a less supportive medium than land. At some point, it breaks. That’s 1st year undergraduate engineering.

    You can MAKE it much more complex – you can model each individual wave if you want. But, in its essentials, it’s a ‘bend a bar until it breaks’ problem. One which we understand fairly well….

  13. Rhode Island has enough to be mocked for without picking on its size. Realize that it was chartered as a colony in 1663 by Charles the Second (http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/organic/1663-cri.htm) because Massachusetts and Connecticut kept encroaching on its borders. 1200 square miles (land area) was a lot of territory for the small number of colonists back then.

  14. R a = q L (2a)

    where

    R a = reaction force in A (N)

    q = uniform load (N/m, N/mm, lb/in)

    L = length of cantilever beam (m, mm, in)

    Hey guys try cantilever stress as a starting point for why glaciers calve out over water.

  15. Ice Burg ahead…

    We have gone almost a century since the great ice burgs which sank boats like Titanic were common place. Now we reenter a cycle of ice increase and calving of new massive ice burgs.

    And our scientists didn’t see this one coming? Are they too vested in Gullible Warming to do real science these days?

  16. Kaboom says:
    July 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I thought Rhode Islands is an area measurement for ranches and farms in Australia.
    No Rhode Islands are a type of friendly chicken.

  17. Kon Dealer says:
    July 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Glacier calving- another alarmist wet dream.

    =====================================

    And those who cant think for themselves will buy it…

    Increased Ice over water… Normal bending due to wave action… Breaks off and whala… Ice burg..

    Commonsense would tell you that you just fell in the water and wake up from the stupor..

  18. “In the time since discovering the rift scientists have been gathering data on how changes in the environment might affect calving rates. For ocean-terminating glaciers like Pine Island Glacier the calving process takes place in a floating ice shelf where stresses like wind and ocean currents cause icebergs to break off. By gathering data on changes to ocean temperature and increasing surface melt rates, researchers are working toward implementing the physics of calving—a calving law—in computer simulations.”

    Astounding! Computer modelers speaking the language of empirical science. I wish them the greatest success in their endeavor. When and if they have the empirical generalizations (not theoretical generalizations) that capture the calving process then they can use them to explain and predict events of calving. Climate science will become an empirical science some day.

  19. Somebody is cherry picking units. If that calf were properly measured using fractal math it would be larger around than the east coast of America is long. Being that large just how many Hiroshima units would be required to melt it? That is important because that is how much the ocean heat will be reduced by the action of melting that bad boy. That heat will have to be backed out of all future alarmist calculations of pending death as it is “soft heat”, not real heat. God does not take from the global warming budget that heat lost to glacial melt.

    In a perfect world where floating glacial snouts were not so easily victimized by greedy capitalists, how long would it take before the Antarctic ice extent grew such that you could walk to Tristan da Cunha from Sao Paulo, Chili, and what would the coastal perimeter of Tuvalu be (using proper fractal measure and not that old-world bogus average that is so often used) were the sea level reduced to a more normal and desirable level consistent with a world free of calving ice sheets?

    I hope I’ve not left out any contemporary CAGW hyperbole.

  20. Ice-bergs calving is a natural process.
    But natural processes are interesting. Please don’t disparage a researcher who is curious about the event.

    Ice grows over the sea and breaks off; that is a good starting point. But what else is there about the process to learn?

    If it just shears as a 30 mile crystal then that is remarkable. If it fractures in disparate places then where and why?

    This is real science. Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming has nothing to do with it. Not physically or philosophically is it cAGW.

    But it is cool (ahem).

  21. Edit: “From NASA, who has moved up” Which, not who. Agency, not person.

    Calving: if an ice sheet is growing, what else could it do when it extends too far over water, but calve? No tree grows to the sky, no ice sheet grows to the equator. At the moment.

  22. Patrick says: July 13, 2013 at 10:14 am
    “Kaboom says: July 13, 2013 at 10:00 am”
    No! That’s New South Wales, it’s bigger than Texas!

    That’s what they say about Alaska, too, but nobody really believes it.

    They should drag that iceberg up into Galveston Bay where it could do some good. Might have enough melted off by the time it got here that it would fit.

  23. With the Wilkins ice shelf collapse, it was apparent that a several week ocean swell crunched the shelf, then pulled the pieces out to sea when it retreated. Here’s the sea level during the collapse at Rothera, the nearest tide gauge to Wilkins.

  24. Mike McMillan says:
    July 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Patrick says: July 13, 2013 at 10:14 am
    “Kaboom says: July 13, 2013 at 10:00 am”
    No! That’s New South Wales, it’s bigger than Texas!

    That’s what they say about Alaska, too, but nobody really believes it.

    =======================================================================
    An Alaskan once said that if Texans didn’t stop bragging about how big it was they’d split Alaska in two then Texas would only be the third largest state.

  25. All explained in one of Capt. W E Johns’ Biggles stories that I re-read recently after +/- 55 years.
    Mind you, Johns also has polar bears in the Antarctic, so maybe he’s about as reliable as a climate scientist.
    Fwiw – another area conversion: “as big as Texas” = 2.5 times smaller than Queensland.

  26. About 12 million sq km of Antarctic sea ice melts each year between the southern hemisphere winter maximum and the summer minimum. Now we have a ”280-square-mile ice island” projecting over the sea and calving; 280 sq miles is 725.2 square kms so this represents about 60 millionths of the annual summer antarctic melt – just to put it in perspective. Wow: we are all doomed /sarc.

    And the mean sea level charts continue to show steady, constant, MSL rise no with acceleration, denoting a steady constant run-off from the land-based ice sheets.

    While it is of course of interest to know the mechanics of the calving process, I would have thought glacier flow mechanics are more important – once out over the ocean I would think the calving process is essentially just a form of cantilever calculation, as to the off-shore range at which the up and down bending moment of the ocean tides causes the ice to fracture.

    This is a non-story, simply intended to frighten the natives.

  27. Michael D Smith says:
    “The physics behind the calving process are highly complex”
    Translation: We have no idea what we are talking about.
    ——-
    The more likely translation:

    With man made global warming, we are likely to see more ice sheet calving like this

  28. “The physics behind the calving process are highly complex”

    Translation: We haven’t been able to fit to a global warming model yet.

    I can see the problem, make more icee, more icee break off. Make less Icee, less icee break off.

    Question: How many scientists does it take to fit a square peg into a round hole?

    Answer: As many as you will fund! Perhaps more!

  29. JudyW says:
    There is an unusual amount of methane being released this year from the central part of Antarctica that started around February. I don’t know what to make of it.
    It’s all the cows, silly. Do try to keep up.

    • There has been a theory about methane – hydrates [frozen methane] mass melting creating huge areas of high gas bubble concentrations which reduces the ability of the ship/boat to remain afloat. Who knows.

  30. Bruce Cobb says:
    July 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    JudyW says:
    There is an unusual amount of methane being released this year from the central part of Antarctica that started around February. I don’t know what to make of it.

    It’s all the cows, silly. Do try to keep up.

    ====================================================================
    Anthony, isn’t it about time for another post about “weather cows”?

  31. My most recent comment disappeared. Maybe the problem was on my end. Closed the browser before hitting “Post Comment” or something like like that. But if I crossed a line, please let me know what it was. All I did was ask if it about time for another post about “weather cows”.

  32. profitup10 says:
    July 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Sorry, the area in question was the Bermuda triangle.

    =====================================================================
    Gas bubbles in water will reduce buoyancy. Sort of the opposite effect salt in the Great Salt Lake or the Dead Sea.
    Hmmm… Cows don’t just…vent…methane but what they deposit produces can produce methane.
    Bubbles will increase the volume of water if not it’s density.
    Maybe all the CAGW BS is responsible for sea level rise?

  33. I think it was back in the early 80′s but some silly bugger in Australia came up with the idea of towing ice bergs from Antarctica to Australia to use as a water source. It was another period when our dams were slowly drying up.

  34. Thanks, Anthony.
    What is a glacier advancing on the sea to do?
    Keep on growing till it covers the whole ocean?
    No, it calves. The resulting icebergs eventually melt and ocean level goes down.

  35. Regarding methane levels, just search “AIRS Methane” on youtube and watch the variability that occurs. Yes, lots of methane comes off of Antarctica.

  36. I’m with Dodgy Geezer: why isn’t this already a well-known phenomenon? Let me say a kind word about models–physical models. What would be lacking in a simulation of this type of event in a refrigerated wave tank that would require studying an actual glacier? There could be an informative answer, but I just don’t see it now.

  37. Bruce Cobb says:
    It’s all the cows, silly. Do try to keep up.

    Perfect timing: cows, calving. I get it. The Ralph Cicerone studies always brings out the funny in science. Argentina needs to reduce the amount of grain to the cows if there is that much methane reaching Antarctica.

  38. Antarctic Glacier Calves Iceberg One-Fourth Size of Rhode Island

    [...]

    Seeing the rift grow and eventually form a 280-square-mile ice island gave researchers an opportunity …

    Here’s what everyone in the USA should learn from this: compared to real States, Rhode Island is a tiny little thing that is massively over-represented in the Federal Government which has helped turn it into a liberal cesspool.

    Here’s an idea, let’s glue together Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire into one, still tiny, leftist super State ( and they can have NYC if they want it ). That would change 10 Senators into 2, better matching the ratio in the rest of the country. What to do with Hawaii though.

    Wikipedia :: Rhode Island and other troublesome little leftist enclaves

  39. Kaboom says:
    July 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I thought Rhode Islands is an area measurement for ranches and farms in Australia.
    ———————————————————————————————————
    Actually we tend to measure farms and stations (ranches) by the number of things per square metre that can kill you..
    It is still a somewhat large number.
    This is just a sample.

    http://www.cracked.com/funny-163-australia/

  40. The engineering of glacier calving (extending as cantilevered tablet until failure) is easy, but it’s difficult for climate scientists because they have to do it with a CO2NTROL KNOB and the GCMs. Willis can probably reduce the problem to two linear variables for them.

  41. About 10 years ago, such iceberg breaks were being shown as big news, reason to enact Kyoto. Doesn’t seem to be happening now. I remember at the time, even scientists like Prof Prynn at MIT didn’t mention how this sort of thing is routine, when someone said they thought it would be the basis for getting the public to do something about global warming.

  42. In January 2008 the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists, Hugh Corr and David Vaughan, reported that 2,200 years ago a volcano erupted under the Antarctic ice sheet. This was the biggest Antarctic eruption in the last 10,000 years. The volcano is situated in the Hudson Mountains, close to Pine Island Glacier.[16][17] The eruption spread a layer of volcanic ash (or tephra) over the surface of the ice sheet. This ash was then buried under the snow and ice. Corr and Vaughan were able to map this ash layer using an airborne radar system and calculate the date of the eruption from the depth of burial of the ash. This method uses dates calculated from nearby ice cores.[17] The presence of the volcano raises the possibility that volcanic activity could have contributed, or may contribute in the future, to increases in the flow of the glacier.[18]

    The ash being buried by snow is misleading, as it will be exposed during the austral summer resulting in increased albedo driven melt.

  43. Well I prefer the Delaware unit myself; well I think so; izzat the Veep’s State; the second smallest state in the United States.

    The North South extent od Delaware, is easy to remember, it’s the distance from Downtown Anchorage to Wassila, where Former Governor Palin lives.

    And you can place the state of Delaware, in 12 different non overlapping places, in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge.

  44. Mike N, you are so right. A 150 km block of sea ice broke off after a collision. It was not global warming but was a regular natural event. But the break away did not create a shipping hazard. My cousin went to Antarctica many years ago hired by a British university. Came home convinced that the summer break away of ice was the creation of global warming. Sent me photographs of a bay somewhere with a few ice bergs, not huge ones, floating around. There are warm water streams under the ice. A wonderful doco showed coral, orange, pink and purple under the ice cap in areas. I couldn’t believe it until I saw a large seal looking at the camera man under the water, very tame too. The warm streams probably are created by underground volcanic thermal vents. I wish I could remember who organized this docomentary, he is a famous documentary producer. I’ll Google and find out.

  45. Werner Hertzog, in ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ got a Oscar nomination. It’s wonderful I recommend you view it sometime.

  46. Gunga Din says:

    July 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Sorry. Now the the comment is there.
    No clue what happened.
    Carry on.
    =================
    When you hit one out of the park, as you did earlier.
    It leaves us expecting more of the same :)

  47. “NASA, who has moved up from “Manhattans” to quarter states as a scale comparison unit”

    So do those convert to centiQueenslands or deciQueenslands?

  48. TELL EGYPT!
    They can send a boat to hook on to the giant ice berg and tow it to Egypt to supplement the irrigation waters of the Nile. (Or sell chunks as ice cubes for drinks)

  49. From the Guardian article in previous comment

    “Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey said: “Although there’s nothing to suggest this event is unusual, it’s not to say that it’s not interesting. We are extremely interested because we want to understand if the loss of a large block of ice has an affect on the flow of the glacier”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Island_Glacier

    They needs to hire a junior engineer to answer such simple questions before they broadcast their stupidity. Here is the answer to the effect a “large block of ice” calving has on the flow of the glacier itself:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Island_Glacier

    “10 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, drains out to the sea via Pine Island Glacier,”

    This and the Thwaites glacier drain 175,000sqkm of the West Antarctica ice sheet. Andy, the flow isn’t going to be affected by the calving (100% confidence). There is no resistance to the tongue of ice pushing out over the sea to hold this mighty glacier back. There is likely even a temporary lifting of the weight of the glacier at the hinge as the tongue is bouyed by the water so that it would slow down a miniscule amount when the ice cracked and broke off. Ya know, all these researchers and NGOs are really on safari.

  50. Why do they want to learn more about how glaciers calve? Simple, they want to know how they can spin that into something catastrophic to get more Government grants. They also want to tie it into CO2 emissions. They already have the end result, they just have to figure how they got there. Hansen’s sea level rise is a function of CO2 emissions despite that having nothing to do with the effect. What they can’t prove they ‘ll make up.

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