Antarctica about to calve an Iceberg about twice size of New York City.

From NASA Earth Observatory and the “doing what ice shelves normally do but now we have satellites to observe them” department.

Countdown to Calving at Brunt Ice Shelf

Cracks growing across Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf are poised to release an iceberg with an area about twice size of New York City. It is not yet clear how the remaining ice shelf will respond following the break, posing an uncertain future for scientific infrastructure and a human presence on the shelf that was first established in 1955.

The cracks are apparent by comparing these images acquired with Landsat satellites. The Thematic Mapper (TM) on Landsat 5 obtained the first image (left) on January 30, 1986. The second image (right), from the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows the same area on January 23, 2019.

The crack along the top of the January 23 image—the so-called Halloween crack—first appeared in late October 2016 and continues to grow eastward from an area known as the McDonald Ice Rumples. The rumples are due to the way ice flows over an underwater formation, where the bedrock rises high enough to reach into the underside of the ice shelf. This rocky formation impedes the flow of ice and causes pressure waves, crevasses, and rifts to form at the surface.

The more immediate concern is the rift visible in the center of the image. Previously stable for about 35 years, this crack recently started accelerating northward as fast as 4 kilometers per year.

Image from January 23, 2019

The detailed view shows this northward expanding rift coming within a few kilometers of the McDonald Ice Rumples and the Halloween crack. When it cuts all the way across, the area of ice lost from the shelf will likely be at least 1700 square kilometers (660 square miles). That’s not a terribly large iceberg by Antarctic standards—probably not even making the top 20 list. But it may be the largest berg to break from the Brunt Ice Shelf since observations began in 1915. Scientists are watching to see if the loss will trigger the shelf to further change and possibly become unstable or break up.

“The near-term future of Brunt Ice Shelf likely depends on where the existing rifts merge relative to the McDonald Ice Rumples,” said Joe MacGregor, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “If they merge upstream (south) of the McDonald Ice Rumples, then it’s possible that the ice shelf will be destabilized.”

The growing cracks have prompted safety concerns for people working on the shelf, particularly researchers at the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Station. This major base for Earth, atmospheric, and space science research typically operates year-round, but has been closed down twice in recent years due to unpredictable changes in the ice. The station has also been rebuilt and relocated over the decades. The detailed image shows the station’s location (Halley IV) until it was closed in 1992. In 2016-2017, the Halley VI station was relocated to a safer location (Halley VIa) upstream of the growing crack.

Calving is a normal part of the life cycle of ice shelves, but the recent changes are unfamiliar in this area. The edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf has evolved slowly since Ernest Shackleton surveyed the coast in 1915, but it has been speeding up in the past several years.

“We don’t have a clear picture of what drives the shelf’s periods of advance and retreat through calving,” said NASA/UMBC glaciologist Chris Shuman. “The likely future loss of the ice on the other side of the Halloween Crack suggests that more instability is possible, with associated risk to Halley VIa.”

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Kathryn Hansen, with image interpretation by Chris Shuman (NASA/UMBC).

137 thoughts on “Antarctica about to calve an Iceberg about twice size of New York City.

    • My first thought as well. Just to be sure … does this “measurement” include The Bronx? AOC’s District? If it does, I expect she will introduce a bill to punish every American who sets their furnace higher than 62 deg.F. with a new thermostat tax.

          • How many Hiroshima bombs?
            How many Olympic swimming-pools?
            How many Wales’s?
            How many man-bear-pig’s seafront mansions?
            How many ping-pong balls, for goodness’ sake?

            So many questions.

            Yet – it’s worse than we thought . . . .

            Mods. /Sarc. Yes.


          • Ping Pongs?

            Okay… So, 40mm dia balls should pack down to 720 per square metre.

            So… 1,000,000 square metres = 1 square km, or 720,000,000 ping pongs per square km.

            1700 square km berg should therefore be the size of 1,224,000,000,000 ping pong balls spread evenly across a flat surface. SCEINCE!

            Of course now to actually have any meaningful reference points people understand we must convert this number into the number of games of Beer Pong that can be played with said number, then use the ratio of Beer Pong games to House Party exchange rate.

            Only then will we be able to express the size of this environmental catastrophe – which may also be Worse Than We Thought(tm) – in terms of Drunken House Parties and we must do this within the next 10 years Before It Is Too Late!

            Honest! 😀

          • Craig from Oz, it’s ALWAYS worse than we thought. But… now that I think it’s worse than we thought, it must be even worse than worse than we thought!! AAAARRRGGGGHHH!

    • With one Hiroshima of the mighty crack’s sound energy released, advice: if in vicinity use solid concrete ear plugs.

      • Imagine the tsunami generated when a New York sized chunk of glacier suddenly calves into the ocean. Run for a high ground now! 🙂

        • I think you will find this is an ice SHELF and the vast majority of the mass of the ice is already supported by the ocean.

          Pretty sure that unless you are physically at the ice shelf you can nap, read a book, yawn and then stroll casually to slightly raised ground in complete safety.

        • I want to know what happens when the new ice chunk hits NY City. AOC will be predicting this for her next installment.

          (and yes, I have an attitude adjustment issue!)

      • How many Hiroshima’s of energy will the ice cube absorb when it melts? Will it be enough to freeze all the penguins in the Antarctic?

        • 4,2 kJ per kilo and Kelvin (from ninus 40-50 to plus 10-20) plus 334 kJ per kg kilo conversion from ice to liquid water…

          (4,2*60+334)*1000000000000 is 586,000,000 terajoule per cubic kilometer.

          1 Hiroshima nuke: 54-75 Terajoule.

          About 90 days worth of Fat Boys at one nuke per second?


    • Let’s have all the Democratic candidates stand together on it to take a selfie, while we give a strong push!

    • New York Cities?? What happened to Manhattens?

      Best to go back to the old, standard comparison — the scary, wet & cold iceberg is the size of 10 Hiroshimas.

    • Wow, thanks for the link. I’ve been sort of trying to keep track of some of this, but that’s a nice, comprehensive list.

  1. Bet Jeff Bezo’s misunderstood this gripping story motivating him to pull Amazon HQ out of NYC.

    AOC also misunderstanding the story has added a free crack guarantee to the GND

  2. I can’t wait for the breakup. I have a tanker of gin on standby along with a bottle of dry vermouth, a jar of olives, and an ice pick. 😜
    This will be cool to watch. Portions of ice shelves have been breaking off since nearly forever, but now we have aerial imaging capabilities to get a really good view of the show.

    What was that one 6-8 years ago? The big Larsen B(?) ice shelf chunk? Obviously I can’t recall the pertinent details – date or place – but the images of the crack were awesome. Sadly, the primary use of those images was to alarm the sheeple.

    Hmmm… I also can’t recall any followup on the whereabouts of that chunk.

  3. PETA objects to using the word … “calving”. A PETA spokesperson said; “Americans obsession with beef consumption should not influence our Climate-protectors at NASA’s Goddard Climate Center to use bovine-insulting language. PETA recommends using the term “aborted”. The ice shelf is being ABORTED”.

  4. There are strange things happening beneath a midnight sun. Icebergs birthed while penguins mate, walruses meeting to decide our fate. While miles away across the seas this change is caused by SUVs, by cows a farting and coal fires burning. Our world to hell is surely turning. Just hide your head in burning sand a half degree warmer than once it was.

  5. Two days ago, a Belgian newspaper wrote that the iceberg to be broken from Antarctica has twice the size of Belgium, and that this could rise the sea-level by 3 meters. If that is correct, then calculation shows that the iceberg should have a height of 18 kilometers, twice the height of Mount Everest.
    We are doomed. / sarc.

      • On the other hand, this iceberg is calving in the Southern Atlantic, and if all that water goes directly towards Belgium, they may be inundated to 30 meters easily. Long live the Precautionary Principle!

    • As Jesus said “the idiots are always with us”

      or maybe he said the poor. My reading comprehension isn’t what it should be.

      • I’m sure he meant ‘poor in intellect’ as well.
        BTW they usually go hand-in-hand unless acted upon by an outside or random force (such as luck).

    • It’s sad, but true, that few people
      know glaciers are rivers of ice
      moving over land.

      I’d guess 99% of Americans
      don’t know that.

      And as they move toward sea level,
      chunks of the glacier
      break off and land in the sea,
      whether the climate is warming,
      or cooling.

      Sometimes the chunks are
      very large.

      Sometimes, before the age
      of satellites, no one noticed them,
      no matter how large they were.

      I’m sure AOC** can explain
      the natural movement of ice glaciers
      to the American people.

      ** Alexandria Occasionally Coherent

    • I have seen that on ‘Weerliefhebbers’, and made about the same calculation. But I haven’t found any confirmation of this huge size claim as well.

    • Back in the 80’s when an area of Brazilian rain forest the size of Belgium was being burned every year, comedians called for Belgium to be burned instead.

    • Scary
      London’s ‘science’ magazine ‘Daily Express’ shows image of the event and is confident that the NASA could be of the view that the asteroid 1999VF22 is about to hit the iceberg, evaporating all the ice via process of sublimation, causing an atmospheric river dumping all that huge volume of water on the N. California flooding Sacramento Valley, but on the plus side the Bronx will not be flooded by the resulting sea level rise if iceberg did simply melt.

      • On the plus side, NO sea level rise will occur if the iceberg does calve and melt. It’s already caused as much displacement as it can. It’s floating.

  6. The complete TDS meltdown in the DNC inner circle could lead to sea level rise of up to 6 m (20 feet).

    Jussie Smollett denies any responsibility. Harris says the culprit is the Chicago Police Dept. which framed two African-Americans as Trump supporters.

    • Jussie Smollett is being processed by CPD now. Brothers were paid 3500. Say Smollett was unhappy with his salary. Of course he’s a hyper progressive SJW.

  7. Here’s an image showing how the ice front has evolved since 1915: link

    The scale is different but you can orient yourself on Halley IV.

    • There’s something wrong with your data – it shows more ice now than before the evil molecule was unleashed. Nothing like a little data to ruin a hypothesis.

        • Joke, you must..

          I can’t tell if you are being serious, as if I didn’t know that and also purposefully use it in jest, or whether you are a pretty funny guy.

          Either way. I’ll clarify for onlookers: There are only two genders, with random genetic mishaps as outliers. The rest is preference and has zero to do with gender.
          Queer isn’t a real thing, it’s an fairy tale idea from childhood make believe land that a person can play pretend because they don’t like labels.
          Fine. Be queer, but don’t expect me to refer to queers as anything other than what their biological gender visually expresses.

          Pansexual? Still born a girl or boy
          Asexual? Same
          MTF, FTM… Still born a boy or girl.

          And it’s cool. I genuinely support people living as they choose, but I’m not going to play party to normalising mental health issues, and I’m damn sure going to joke about whatever I want, especially sensitive topics. Because otherwise….
          The terrorists win!

          Good grief all this comfort and convenience has really permitted those with mental health issues to multiply. Maybe AOC had the right idea

          • You might be interested in Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger. It details the corruption of science by some pretty nasty LGBTQ/SJW activists. These folks are a serious danger to our freedom and, therefore, to the well being of the nation.

            Just as Dr. Mann’s hockey stick pushed me into skepticism, the folks Dreger describes are pushing me away from my previously automatic tolerance.

          • Commi, I have tolerance and acceptance for anyone who engaged in consensual interactions with other adults. How they live or dress or any of that, isn’t my concern, but I will shame them depending on the circumstances.
            Many of them deserve shaming.

            But what is really going on is the agenda to destroy the family and usher in their dystopian socialist dream world. It is only about power with them. Few want to actually be seen as equals, love freely: the vast majority want to punish normal white males for some perceived Injustice

          • Can be a bit tricky when you have intersex individuals. For example someone with androgen insensitivity syndrome can have a Y chromosome but no external male genitalia and in fact a medical exam would show them to be female. Sometimes only diagnosed when undergoing treatment for the inability to conceive!

  8. Some time ago, I was working on a Molybdenum property on the BC Coast.
    Just up the Taku River from Juneau.
    Lot of ice fields and glaciers there.
    We would chip off some the ice and declare that it was 400 years old.
    It turned ordinary Scotch into 20-year old stuff!
    With the appropriate weightings on relative ages–Sure!

    • Hi Bob, to the north of that in the Kluane Range, our exploration crew ca1970 had a Cree prospector from Ross River , Yukon and our cook who was a posh hotel chef in his pre alchoholic days. The prospector advised it was legal for him to shoot dahl sheep if we could helicopter him up onto Mount Kluane and the cook said he could make ice cream if we brought back glacier ice on the side racks. We had a 5 star feast that day!

  9. If events are occurring more quickly (frequently) on the ice shelf, I suggest that increasing snowfall may be the culprit. What are the figures for snowfall in that part of Antarctica for the past few years?

  10. It’s always the same song: That iceberg is the size of [insert panicky term here]. If that iceberg melts, it will flood the entire {add more panicky words here]. We’re all doomed.

    The size of NYC? Not impressed. Make it the size of Chicago from the south suburbs to the north state line, and I’ll pay attention.

    • Place a 3 foot tall ice core sample into a 4″ tall glass of the same diameter.
      It will over flow when it melts 🙂
      (but … then it wasn’t floating in the water it was grounded)

      • The problem with your analogy, as you yourself end up pointing out, is the ice core isn’t floating, it’s grounded. Try the same experiment only start with oh say half a glass of water in it. Try putting that 3 foot tall ice core sample into that 4″ tall glass *without* causing the water to overflow before the ice even has a chance to melt. There’s a reason the vast majority of an ice’s mass is under the water when it’s floating (whether it be in an ice cube in a glass or an iceberg in the ocean).

  11. “McDonald Ice Rumples and the Halloween crack”…dang, I missed those, just like I missed the McRib…and I think crack is illegal, even on Halloween.

    What I want to know is, can we get New York City to calve off into the Atlantic?

    Don’t tell me, let me guess – this is all CO2’s fault, isn’t it?

  12. “Antarctica about to calve an Iceberg about twice size of New York City.”

    Not sure how that translates. Here in the UK we are more used to reporting area as in a loss of Amazonian Rain-forest the area the Size of Wales.

    Volume has been traditionally reported by the MSM as an equivalent number of St. Paul’s Cathedrals.

    And length, of course, is reported as being the number of times “to the moon and back”. (There is a ruder definition, but that is not fit for a family show like WUWT).

  13. Maybe they should check to see if there are any “active geothermal vents” in play like what is happening under the West Antarctic ice sheet (120+ active geothermal vents)

  14. “…The more immediate concern is the rift visible in the center of the image.”

    What “concern” is that? A large ice shelf grows and extends from the coast. The pattern of ridges proves it is moving away from the mainland. Then it breaks off in chunks. So what? What else should happen? Should it spread over the whole southern ocean to ‘retain its integrity? Good grief. This is too much ado about literally nothing.

    It is like the wailing about each iceberg that melts in the North Atlantic. What else should icebergs do?

  15. It is a small part of Antarctica. The island is comparable to the whole US. It is easy to forget how large a landmass Antarctica is.

  16. A chance to practice recycling!

    “When glaciers calve, alarmist have a cow. That explains all the bellowing”

  17. Twilight of the Sailing Ships 1965
    By Robert Carse
    Grosset and Dunlop
    Chapter 7 page 77-83
    During the era of the great sailing vessels many were lost in great numbers rounding Cape Horn because of Antarctic ice floes.
    Ice floes 60 miles by 40 miles in size and 1000 to 1500 feet high were described by surviving sea captains
    during trips between the Atlantic and Pacific making the trip extremely hazardous.

    “Three breakages of the Antarctic ice mass brought great peril to Cape Horn Sailing ships in the years when records were kept.”
    “The first reports were sighted by 21 ships between December of 1854 and April 1854. The Australian clipper Great Britain steamed fifty miles along the outer edge and stayed clear. But the Guiding Star was trapped between huge ice cliffs and yet could not make headway against the current. She was lost with all hands.”

    “The second breakage was 1892-93…ships officers were more concerned about leaving the ice field as quickly as possible. They needed no measurements to know that they were in imminent danger.

    “The next great test came in 1908 when a new mass of ice broke away from the Antarctic ice field. The Ben Voirlich was one of the vessels that was nearly lost. She collided with a berg, suffered injury to her jibboom and bowsprit before she could stand clear on safe course.”

  18. Commi, I have tolerance and acceptance for anyone who engaged in consensual interactions with other adults. How they live or dress or any of that, isn’t my concern, but I will shame them depending on the circumstances.
    Many of them deserve shaming.

    But what is really going on is the agenda to destroy the family and usher in their dystopian socialist dream world. It is only about power with them. Few want to actually be seen as equals, love freely: the vast majority want to punish normal white males for some perceived Injustice

  19. ““doing what ice shelves normally do but now we have satellites to observe them”


    “That’s not a terribly large iceberg by Antarctic standards—probably not even making the top 20 list. But it may be the largest berg to break from the Brunt Ice Shelf since observations began in 1915.”

    1. Since we have no observations prior to 1915 its hard to say exactly what ice shelves do “Normally”
    2. Observations started before Landsat, as the article points out. The on ice research facility was closed in 1992.

    3. There is no claim made about whether this is normal or abnormal ,speculation that this is “normal”
    really is not grounded in any analysis of what counts as “normal”

    I am quite certain that if the world got warmer an antarctica lost al its ice, someone would say

    A) maybe it was soot
    b) maybe it was volcanoes
    c) its probably happended before, we dont have satellite records from millionsof years ago.
    d) you cant prove it was warming.
    e) in the whole history of earth this is “normal”

    Any way, last I looked there was an LIA. That means the world is warmer now than it was then.
    Expect the sea level to be higher, water expands when warmed
    Expect some ice to melt.

    OR when these things happen you can find something else to blame. it always could be some other cause.

    unicorns done it.

    • Actually there was no continuous human presence anywhere in the Antarctic before 1944, and none in the Brunt glacier area before 1955 so to claim observational data from 1915 seems somewhat optimistic.

  20. When I read the post title Antarctica about to calve an Iceberg about twice size of New York City I can’t help but picture Antarctica sitting on the can with a newspaper.

    [LOL. Heck of a first comment! Almost spewed my coke across the desk because of this… 🙂 -mod]

  21. This is more silly and useless hand wringing. If Antarctic ice didn’t regularly calve into the ocean, all the water on the planet would wind up in the Antarctic. Apparently, these silly people want the Earth to be a desert planet like Mars.


  22. COOL!!!!
    Is there a handy site so we can watch this in (near) real time?
    I’d really like to see a ‘calving cam’-you know, like they monitor Mt St Helens?

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