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Sentinel-1 mission captures birth of behemoth iceberg

Ice Monitoring

Over the last few months, a chunk of Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has been hanging on precariously as a deep crack cut across the ice.


Monitored by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, the crack is now around 200 km long, leaving just 4.5 km between the end of the fissure and the ocean. When it eventually gives way, a one trillion tonne iceberg – one of the biggest ever recorded - will be set adrift. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes.


Scientists from Project MIDAS, an Antarctic research consortium led by Swansea University in the UK, used radar images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission to keep a close eye on the rapidly changing situation. In this specific case, radar images are indispensable because radar imaging system is capable of acquiring images regardless of cloud cover, and throughout the current winter period of polar darkness.


Adrian Luckman, the leader of MIDAS, also said that “The recent development in satellite systems like Sentinel-1 has vastly improved our ability to monitor events such as this.


The loss of such a large piece is of interest because ice shelves along the peninsula play an important role in ‘buttressing’ glaciers that feed ice seaward, effectively slowing their flow.




(Source ESA)

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