Iceberg the size of Malta breaks up

One of Antarctica's fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.

One of Antarctica's fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.

Sound familiar? That's because it probably is. Thanks to images from the Copernicus Sentinel satellite missions, two large rifts in the glacier were spotted a year ago and scientists have been keeping a close eye on how quickly these cracks were growing. In total, the icebergs measure about twice the size of Washington, D.C., in area (more than 130 square miles, or 350 square kilometers), according to The Washington Post.

"What you are looking at is both terrifying and handsome", Mark Drinkwater, head of the Earth and Mission Sciences Division at the ESA, told CNN.

Earlier this month, the ESA's Copernicus Sentinel satellite mission captured cracks appearing and "rapidly" growing over a number of days. The iceberg fragmented as soon as it separated from the glacier. These two glaciers have been losing ice for the past 25 years.

There is a lot of imbalance in the glacial system, due to the warming temperatures.

The Pine Island Glacier, along with its neighbor Thwaites glacier, connect the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with the ocean, and together discharge significant quantities of ice into the ocean.

It is estimated the region has enough vulnerable ice to raise sea levels by 1.2 metres.

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"Once that effect starts to go it causes more ice to flow from the continent into the ocean, so they speed up even faster and that feedback process keeps happening". Warmer ocean water and declining snowfall are not allowing the glacier to replenish itself.

The changes to the glacier have been mapped by ESA-built satellites since the 1990s, with calving events occurring multiple times since 1992.

"This indicates that Pine Island ice shelf is weakening as a result of warm ocean water and this is important as the ice in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, where PIG is located, is the area where we scientists are most anxious about contributions to sea-level rise", Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing scientist from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said to ABC. With Pine Island, the ice front has retreated inland, which means the calving rate has increased more than the glacier has accelerated.

The satellite images come as a research base on the tip of Antarctica recorded the hottest temperature on record for the continent.

Scientists had been watching the iceberg develop over the past year.

"Sea level rise can have huge economic and societal impacts".

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