As anticipated, Pine Island Glacier, known as PIG for short, in Antarctica has spawned a huge iceberg. At over 300 sq km, about the size of Malta, this huge berg very quickly broke into many ‘piglet’ pieces the largest of which is dubbed B-49.
Depending on news media around the world, the iceberg was comparable in size to Malta, the city of Tampa, Florida or Washington D.C. - measuring about 300 square kilometers (116 square miles)) in size, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
The ESA's Copernicus - Sentinel satellite missions have been keeping a close eye on two large rifts in the PIG, spotted last year. In the video above, the animation uses 57 radar images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission between February 2019 and February 2020 (the last frame is from 10 February 2020) and shows just how quickly the emerging cracks grew and led to this calving event.
The Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica, and along with the Thwaites Glacier, has been the focus of scientific scrutiny for over 25 years. More recently, scientists have been trying to determine if the glaciers are entering a period of "runaway" melting.
NASA Earth Observatory map by Lauren Dauphin, using Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) data from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. NASA
The Boston Globe, citing NASA, reports there is enough ‘‘highly vulnerable ice’’ in the region surrounding the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers to raise global sea levels by about 4 feet.
Bob Bindschadler, an emeritus NASA glaciologist who landed on Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf in 2008, explains the idiosyncracies scientists have discovered about PIG. "A shrinking outlet glacier is usually doing three things: thinning (mostly at the seaward edge), retreating, and accelerating."
The acceleration of the Pine Island glacier stretches the glacier, causing the thinning and likely making the ice more prone to crevassing (cracking) upstream." With Pine Island, the ice front has retreated inland, which means the calving rate has increased more than the glacier has accelerated. “This underlines our concern that retreating outlet glaciers can ‘shrink’ rapidly,” Bindschadler said.