New satellite images show an eerie “Halloween crack” near an Antarctic iceberg hanging by a thread.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the fissure itself is stable, but the nearest tip of the Antarctic ice shelf is a cause for concern as the southernmost continent continues to warm due to climate change.
Only a thin strand of ice about one-third of a mile (600 meters) long holds the tip to the rest of the shelf, a new space observations show.
“If and when this potential break point finally gives way, it is expected to spawn a huge iceberg of around 1,750 square kilometres. [675 square miles]”, – ESA representatives wrote (opens in a new tab) Monday (October 31), “which is five times the size of Malta”. (Malta is about one-tenth the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state.)
In the photos: A giant crack has released a huge iceberg in Antarctica
Fresh images from the Sentinel-2 satellite, part of Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program, could help predict the associated sea level rise on Earth if that wobbly tip falls into the nearby Weddell Sea.
It’s not so much a threat of a new iceberg as a floating ice shelf, ESA officials said. But these shelves do slow down the flow of land ice into the ocean.
“Because of climate change, Antarctica’s ice shelves are weakening, putting more land ice at greater risk of entering the oceans and thus contributing to sea level rise, possibly scarier than Halloween,” the agency wrote.
Aside from its eerie location, the reason it’s called “Halloween Cracks” is the date it opened: October 31, 2016. It’s located in an area colorfully called the Macdonald Ice Shelf, referring to where the bottom of the ice shelf is attached to the sea floor. below. Because the shelf is grounded, it also slows ice loss, the ESA added.
The study of this iceberg is part of a larger set of satellite observations of Antarctica, which is quite remote but still within range of satellites that can observe “changes in ice dynamics, air temperature and ocean,” ESA said.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) or Facebook (opens in a new tab).