Environment

NASA's breathtaking photographs of Antarctica's new giant iceberg

NASA's breathtaking photograph...
The western edge of iceberg A68
The western edge of iceberg A68
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The edge of Larsen C Ice Shelf with the western edge of iceberg A68 in the distance at the top right
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The edge of Larsen C Ice Shelf with the western edge of iceberg A68 in the distance at the top right
Looking out from the sea ice to iceberg A68
2/23
Looking out from the sea ice to iceberg A68
The western edge of iceberg A68
3/23
The western edge of iceberg A68
Approaching the iceberg with the Larsen Ice Shelf at the very top of the picture
4/23
Approaching the iceberg with the Larsen Ice Shelf at the very top of the picture
A recent satellite image of the iceberg
5/23
A recent satellite image of the iceberg
The edge of A-68
6/23
The edge of A-68
John Sonntag, Operation IceBridge mission scientist, takes notes during the science flight over Larsen C
7/23
John Sonntag, Operation IceBridge mission scientist, takes notes during the science flight over Larsen C
Sea ice surrounding Vega Island in the Erebus and Terror Gulf
8/23
Sea ice surrounding Vega Island in the Erebus and Terror Gulf
Broken sea ice floes
9/23
Broken sea ice floes
Slabs of thin grey sea ice floes in the western Weddell Sea
10/23
Slabs of thin grey sea ice floes in the western Weddell Sea
Calving front of a glacier & sea ice
11/23
Calving front of a glacier & sea ice
Bernardo O’Higgins base seen on the top left
12/23
Bernardo O’Higgins base seen on the top left
Icebergs and sea ice near the northern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula
13/23
Icebergs and sea ice near the northern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula
Seymour Island on the left,  home of the Argentinian Marambio Station
14/23
Seymour Island on the left,  home of the Argentinian Marambio Station
Edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf
15/23
Edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf
The Antarctic peninsula
16/23
The Antarctic peninsula
Sea ice forming off the edge of Nobile Glacier
17/23
Sea ice forming off the edge of Nobile Glacier
Newly formed sea ice next to a snow-covered sea ice floe in the Weddell Sea
18/23
Newly formed sea ice next to a snow-covered sea ice floe in the Weddell Sea
Hektoria Glacier
19/23
Hektoria Glacier
Finger-rafted sea ice
20/23
Finger-rafted sea ice
Eastern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula and Drygalski Glacier
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Eastern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula and Drygalski Glacier
As the plane sweeps into what they call a "glacier run"
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As the plane sweeps into what they call a "glacier run"
Mountains bordering Crane Glacier
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Mountains bordering Crane Glacier

In July one of the largest icebergs ever recorded broke off Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf. The massive 6,000 km² (2,300 mi²) chunk of ice represented ten percent of the total ice shelf. As part of NASA's annual IceBridge polar ice mapping project we are now seeing close-up photographs of this giant new iceberg for the first time – and it is undeniably spectacular.

Operation IceBridge is a yearly survey of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. The science mission is fundamental to our understanding of how the ice and the ocean interact as well as tracking the movement and thickness of various ice shelves.

The edge of A-68
The edge of A-68

The trip over Larsen C wasn't just designed to get some happy snaps of the new mega-iceberg, but also to map the ice shelf in detail using a variety of instruments to better understand this complex system. Scientist Kathryn Hansen, on the IceBridge expedition writes of her sensation as the plane approached the iceberg:

"I was aware that I would be seeing an iceberg the size of Delaware, but I wasn't prepared for how that would look from the air. Most icebergs I have seen appear relatively small and blocky, and the entire part of the berg that rises above the ocean surface is visible at once. Not this berg. A-68 is so expansive it appears if it were still part of the ice shelf."

Take a look through the gallery to see pictures of the Larsen C iceberg, as well as more stunning images from the IceBridge flight over Antarctica.

Source: NASA / NASA ICE Twitter

6 comments
Vernon Miles Kerr
Imagine, if that could be plunked down in the middle of the Sahara Desert. What would happen? A worldwide weather change? A perturbation of the global warming trend? A cure for the current desertification of the Subsaharan region? Or a new ice age?
watersworm
Every year a part of icesheet from Larsen B or C or both becomes an iceberg. Always spectacular, though always "natural".
flyerfly
@Vernon, My guess is that it would melt in a couple of years and other than a few dry river beds from the run off things would go back to the desert. Unless the weather patterns over the Sahara change I doubt that it could be reclaimed. It is a lot of water but not enough to sustain something that has been largely without water for so long and with so little built up organic matter. Just my 2 cents. Sure would be fun to try though. Would take hundred(s) of nuclear powered ships to tow that thing! The seals around south africa & Namibia would be very excited I am sure!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Desertification results in more thermal radiation returned to space, as well as an increase in the Earth's albedo. Taken to its limit, this is an ice age.
christopher
The thermal photo looks colorized wrongly (backwards). Everyone knows it's always colder in the shade.
Nik
On the west coast of Africa, there is a huge natural bay. [Nouadhibou is the town on the peninsula.] Some years ago, I fantasised that a huge iceberg could be towed into it, and the fresh water from it piped into the Sahara to feed any number of artificial oasis. The only problem would be the huge logistics required, but if the population pressure on the rest of the world became strong enough, it would be done. There are some that say that there are too many humans for the world to support, but actually thats a blinkered outlook by people in crowded cities, while 70% of the worlds surface, (the oceans) have no human habitation at all. Maybe an iceberg of this size would be a point to start, as at least its unlikely to melt to nothing before it reaches its destination.