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Humongous iceberg slowly drifts away from Antarctica

Tracking B31's movement will grow more difficult over the next six months as Antarctica is consumed by winter and 24-hour darkness.
By Brooks Hays   |   April 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- An iceberg -- bigger than the island of Guam and six times larger than Manhattan -- is slowly drifting away from Antarctica.

The giant chunk of ice calved from the South Pole last year, and scientists have been doing their best to track the berg's movement.

The frozen island, dubbed B31, is expected to be captured in the strong currents of the Southern Ocean, but tracking its movement will grow more difficult over the next six months as Antarctica is consumed by winter and 24-hour darkness.

A new time-lapse video, released this week by NASA, shows the iceberg's movement over the last several months. The imagery was captured by the space agency's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument featured on its Terra and Aqua satellites.

Scientists at NASA and other international agencies are interested in monitoring B31 to learn more about the movement and dynamics of an iceberg's lifecycle.

What, if any, significance the event has in connection to climate change is unclear.

"Iceberg calving is a very normal process,” said Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. "However, the detachment rift, or crack, that created this iceberg was well upstream of the 30-year average calving front of Pine Island Glacier (PIG), so this a region that warrants monitoring."

Icebergs aren't only tracked for scientific purposes. Maritime agencies also want to keep tabs on B31's whereabouts, as icebergs can pose serious danger to cargo ships.

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