NASA shows birth of iceberg with 3D fly-through animation

Jordan Chittley
Daily Buzz

NASA has used digital photography and laser generated ground maps to witness the birth of an iceberg and see it from a whole new angle.

By using this technology, they have created a 3D fly-through video of a crack in a large Antarctic iceberg. When the crack deepens and the iceberg breaks away, it will be larger in size than all of New York City's boroughs combined.

Four months ago, NASA researchers flew DC-8 planes and took the first detailed measurements of an iceberg when it was starting to crack as part of Operation IceBridge. And by last month they had mapped the crack in the Pine Island Glacier. The Pine Island Glacier is in Western Antarctica and is one of the continent's largest and fastest moving glaciers.

"A lot of times when you're in science, you don't get a chance to catch the big stories as they happen because you're not there at the right place at the right time," said John Sonntag, Instrument Team Lead for Operation IceBridge, based at Goddard Space Flight Center in a Daily Mail article. "But this time we were."

"The nearly 20-mile long rift is 50 to 60 metres deep, but that's just down to the waterline," says the video narrator.

The virtual flight in the animation lasts roughly 30 kilometres, but the crack is much larger. The gap is on average 80 metres wide, but 250 metres at its widest. Radar indicates the ice shelf is about 500 metres thick.

As it is a floating ice shelf, there is about eight times more ice floating under the water.

A team is also installing GPS devices upstream from the rift that may be able to detect whether the glacier speeds up after the iceberg splits off.

According to the Daily Mail, NASA says it is a source of uncertainty in sea level projections, but the calving is part of a normal process.

NASA is also watching the rift from space and says it is expanding a few metres each day.

Pine Island Glacier has also calved icebergs in 2001 and 2007, according to a RedOrbit article.

NASA can't say when it will finally split, but because of the approaching Antarctic winter, the impending berg may be protected until the weather warms if it doesn't break off in the next few weeks.