Chilean scientist: Detachment of Antarctic icebergs, ice shelves is common

Santiago, Jan 26 (EFE).- Alexis Segovia, a professor and glaciologist at the University of Chile, on Thursday explained to EFE that the recent detachment of a huge shelf of ice in Antarctica is “a common phenomenon” and is not directly related to climate change, although climate change certainly will negatively affect the life of the new iceberg.

The scientist said that the breaking off of a gigantic chunk of ice – with a surface area larger than London or Paris – is caused by the “dynamic of the big glaciers.”

“The phenomenon is linked to the movement of the glaciers. This platform (of ice) advances toward the sea and the part that is floating is less rough than the part that’s on land, and so that portion moves more rapidly and, if cracks form, they expand,” Segovia said about the glacial chunk that recently split off from the rest of its glacier and drifted a ways out to sea.

“When we have this platform of ice over water, it gets to the length where it ends up eventually breaking at the spot where those cracks are,” the expert added, providing a similar explanation to that furnished by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the organization that alerted the world to the birth of the new iceberg at the beginning of this week.

Segovia said that “there is no close relationship with climate change, as such” given that “this recurs when these advances of ice happen and they extend a long ways out over the water.”

The Chilean glaciologist, however, said that the warming of the oceans and the planet in general certainly will have an impact on the evolution of the new floating ice mass, the life of which as an iceberg will be shorter than it would have been years ago when global warming had not advanced to today’s level.

“If the ocean temperature increases and also the air temperature, the ice shelves will be exposed and they’re going to weaken more quickly and, in theory, they also could be breaking off more quickly and we’ll have more of these phenomena,” Segovia said.

The huge mass of ice, twice the size of Santiago, separated earlier this week from the Brunt ice shelf 10 years after the first crack appeared, which BAS scientists had calculated at about 150 meters (500 feet) wide.

The aim now is to observe the evolution of the iceberg to draw potential conclusions about the status of the planet and the oceans and to give it a name, which will probably be bestowed after consultation among US scientific societies.

BAS glaciologists and teams have been anticipating this event with measurements of the ice cap that they have been making several times per day using high-precision instruments, BAS officials said.

The organization added that the measurements have been made to see how the ice cap is deforming and moving, and this is compared with images from orbit provided by the European Space Agency, NASA and a German satellite, with all this information being sent to Cambridge University for analysis.

From the measurements, the scientists know what happens during the Antarctic winter when there are no personnel at the BAS Antarctic station, it’s dark 24 hours a day and temperatures fall below -50 C (-58 F), BAS director Jane Francis said.

EFE –/bp

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