Warmer surface temperatures over just a few months in the Antarctic can
splinter an ice shelf and prime it for a major collapse, NASA and
university scientists report in the latest issue of the Journal of
Using satellite images of tell-tale melt water on the ice surface and a
sophisticated computer simulation of the motions and forces within an
ice shelf, the scientists demonstrated that added pressure from surface
water filling crevasses can crack the ice entirely through. The process
can be expected to become more widespread if Antarctic summer
This true-color image from Landsat 7, acquired on February 21, 2000, shows pools
of melt water on the surface of the Larsen Ice Shelf, and drifting icebergs that have split
from the shelf. The upper image is an overview of the shelf’s edge, while the lower image
is displayed at full resolution of 30 meters (98 feet) per pixel. The labeled pond in the
lower image measures roughly 1.6 by 1.6 km (1.0 x 1.0 miles).
n late February 2008, an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated into a floating pile of massive ice bergs, smaller ice fragments, and slush that was trapped in place by freezing sea water over subsequent weeks. This highly detailed image from the Taiwanese Formosat-2 satellite shows the different sizes, shapes, and textures of the ice fragments on March 8, 2008.