Iceberg Antarctica Larger Than Chicago: Global Sea Level To Rise [PHOTO, REPORT]

By Staff Reporter on July 10, 2013 6:29 PM EDT

Chicago-sized iceberg
Pine Island glacier breaks off an iceberg the size of Chicago. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A massive iceberg the size of Chicago has broken off Anartica's Pine Island glacier. An enormous crack in the ice was first discovered on Pine Island Glacier as early as 2011. Now, the crack has breached and a body of ice measured at approximately 278 square miles has broken away.

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The crack was identified by scientists of NASA's Operation IceBridgefirst while flying over to survey the ice sheet. The Chicago-sized iceberg was eventually confirmed recently by images captured by German satellite TerraSAR-X of the German Aerospace Center.

The Chicago-sized iceberg is subject of concern yet scientists refrain from jumping into conclusions.

"Although there's nothing to suggest this event is unusual, it's not to say that it's not interesting," said Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey. "We are extremely interested because we want to understand if the loss of a large block of ice has an effect on the flow of the glacier."

In fact, scientists have monitored the ice sheet for years. Glaciologist Prof Angelika Humbert is an ice modeler with the Alfred Wegener Institute.

"I use the images from the satellite to model the flow of the glacier and how the grounding line is retreating which allows us to predict the behavior of the ice sheet over the next hundreds to thousands of years," said Humbert.

"A calving event of this size is relatively common with similar events occurring at the Pine Island glacier in 2007 and 2001", added Humbert, echoing Smith's sentiments.

However, just because a calving event is common for the Pine Island glacier, that doesn't mean it's okay.

"The Pine Island glacier is quite significant because it is losing more ice to the sea than any other glacier in the world," explained Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey. "The glacier is changing a lot and quickly."

"The wind now brings warm sea water beneath the shelf ice," Angelika Humbert adds. "Over time, this process means that the shelf ice melts from below."

According to the Guardian, scientists emphasis that the new 278 square mile iceberg calving event is a natural occurrence unrelated to global warming. However, the melting process of the Pine Island glacier will not only destabilize the Western Antarctic ice sheet, but will increase the global sea level as well. Scientists hope satellite monitoring of the ice sheet will help them learn the contributing factors to the melting of the Pine Island glacier.

Watch the video below to learn more about the behavior of the Pine Island glacier.

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