The 310-square mile chunk of ice, in the shape of a giant tongue, has split off from the Hudson Mountains to the Amundsen Sea. A NASA DC-8 plane flew over the ice glacier on October 26 flying directly over the rift for about 18 miles as part of the agency's Operation IceBridge
Project scientist Michael Studinger of the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, USA said this was the first time scientists have had an opportunity to observe the birth of such a huge iceberg. Pine Island has scientists' attention because of its huge size and instability, reports the UK Daily Mail
. Scientists are calling it "the largest source of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections."
Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest and fastest-moving super chunks of ice on the White Continent and drains something around 10 percent of all the ice flowing out of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the ocean. In the last few years measurements taken of the Pine Island Glacier have recorded a remarkable thinning in its depth, possibly as result of climate change, reports BBC Environment
Dr Studinger said:
The last big calving event occurred in 2001 so in general people have been expecting something like this to happen fairly soon, and for us it is very exciting to see this while it is happening.
IceBridge is a six-year mission surveying Earth's polar ice from the air. It yields unprecedented three-dimensional views of both Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice.