Infrared shows crack in Antarctic ice


Thermal satellite imaging lets scientists keep tabs on the imminent calving of a gargantuan iceberg.


An infrared satellite view of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.
An infrared satellite view of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. White represents the coldest ice, yellow the warmest seawater.
Joshua Stevens / Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

At this time of the year everything is dark in Antarctica. The sun won’t been seen again for quite some time. That doesn’t mean that everything stops.

Take the Larsen C ice shelf: since last summer, scientists have watched a huge crack slowly crawl across it, one which will sooner or later result in one of the biggest icebergs ever seen breaking off into the ocean.

The crack is still moving, and scientists are still watching, now with the aid of the Thermal InfraRed Sensor (TIRS) aboard the Landsat 8 satellite. The crack is the thin line heading upwards in the image above, taken on 17 June.

The speed of movement of the soon-to-be fragment has greatly increased in recent days, in a sign that break-off is imminent.

When this massive iceberg calves, the Larsen C ice shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area. Scientists believe the remainder of the shelf will be less stable afterwards, and the whole thing may eventually break up in the same way that its neighbour Larsen B did in 2002, after a similar gigantic chunk broke off.

Read more at NASA’s Earth Observatory.


  1. https://cosmosmagazine.com/climate/rift-then-drift
  2. http://www.projectmidas.org/blog/berg-acceleration/
  3. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90481
Latest Stories
MoreMore Articles