In July, one of the largest icebergs ever recorded — measuring in at about the size of Delaware and containing a volume of ice twice the size of Lake Erie — broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in northwest Antarctica.
The event, which took place during the frigid blackness of the Antarctic winter, was detected using satellite instruments that could pierce the darkness to sense the ice below. As the austral spring dawns, scientists are now being granted their first glimpses of the new iceberg during the daytime.
And the images are incredible.
The first daytime satellite photo to be released by NASA came on Sept. 11, via an instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite, which is known as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS.
It revealed the massive iceberg, which dwarfs Manhattan yet somehow has taken on its shape, in all its glory.
The new data shows how the massive iceberg has split into smaller pieces since it cleaved off from the floating ice shelf last summer, and reveals that it has begun to push away from the ice shelf that birthed it, thanks to offshore winds.
The original iceberg weighed about 1 trillion tons, according to a team of researchers affiliated with a U.K.-based research project, known as Project MIDAS. While the iceberg calving event itself is likely mostly natural, it nevertheless threatens to speed up the already quickening pace of ice melt in the region due in large part to global warming.
In its original shape, the iceberg was about 2,200 square miles in area, Project MIDAS researchers said in a blog post on July 12. In late July, the main iceberg, known as A-68A, lost several chunks of ice as it began to slowly drift out to sea.