The Icebergs of Antarctica are Breaking Off at an Alarming Rate

The Icebergs of Antarctica are Breaking Off at an Alarming Rate

Oceans might engulf the coastal cities of the world if the ice loss in Antarctica is not controlled.

The melting of ice in Antarctica is probably the most dangerous impact of global warming if we consider the devastation, it can cause in the future. According to an estimate, sea level would rise at around 70 meters if all the ice of Antarctica and other glaciers of the world melts. This means that all the coastal cities around the globe will be engulfed by the corresponding oceans, which will significantly reduce the land area of our planet.

Despite the fact that the majority of us are aware of this problem, we sometimes need visualization to really understand the severity of the situation. Marlo Garnsworthy and Kevin Pluck, a team of Science Animators from ‘Pixel Makers & Movers’, offered just that as they developed a 50-second clip showing the movement of the Antarctic iceberg in the last 40 years. This video gives a much clearer idea about the amount of ice that has gone wandering from 1976 to 2017.

Watch what’s actually happened in Antarctica in these years:

The data, for this animation, was gathered from multiple sources and agencies including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Center for Remote Sensing at Brigham Young University (BYU). The Antarctic Iceberg Tracking Database, managed by BYU, provided quite a lot of vital information as it gathers data from 6 satellites that track objects on Earth’s surface by their reflected energy (scatterometers). The resulting clip, particularly, highlighted the melting of B-15 (the biggest recorded iceberg in history) in 2000 and the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002. Garnsworthy referred to that by saying,

I was surprised and yet not to see an apparent uptick in iceberg flux in recent years. Certainly, the calving and breakup of B-15 and the collapse of Larsen B ice shelf in 2002 are pretty spectacular.”

It is very much evident in the video that the icebergs travel in an anti-clockwise direction, once they are detached from the Antarctic glacier. They ultimately move towards the Antarctic Circumpolar Current as they head down the ‘Iceberg Alley’. At that point, the icebergs are literally at the mercy of the ocean currents and will eventually melt and return to the oceans in liquid form (water). Pluck and Garnsworthy were planning an expedition to the Iceberg Alley in the next year, which urged them to create this wonderful piece of art. What made this animation even more impressive is that they completed it over the course of a weekend. Pluck talked about the process in the following words:

Thankfully the data was in good shape and didn’t require any conversions so I could start rendering it almost straight away. We were also in discussion with Antarctic scientists who suggested we highlight the calving of B-15 and the Larsen B break up. That truly showed the dynamic nature of icebergs and their longevity.”

Given the fact that proper observance of Antarctica requires satellite technology and it was not possible before the 1970s, there are several reservations that all this iceberg action is directly related to global warming. Having said that, one thing is for sure that the rate of ice melting is speeding up, rapidly. Stats show that more than 3 trillion tons of material have been lost since 1992 and around 40% of the loss occurred between 2012 and 2017. This means that we need to react swiftly to understand the reasons for all the ice loss in Antarctica. This will allow us to control continuous increment in temperature in this part of the world and we hope that this effort from Pixel Makers & Movers will prove useful in spreading the word.

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