The ATSR Project
Antarctic: B-15 Iceberg - One of the largest icebergs ever seen.
ATSR-2 has been used to track a large iceberg which broke away
or calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. The iceberg,
at nearly 300km in length and 40km in width, was one of the
largest ever seen at the time of its formation in March 2000.
Since then, it has broken into two main icebergs and other
smaller ones have formed including B-17, probably caused by B-15
crashing into the ice-shelf. This sequence of images shows how
the various pieces have developed over the last few months.
Calving of icebergs from the Antarctic ice-shelf is common. As
the snow accumulates it turns into ice and a shelf of ice is
pushed out into the surrounding ocean. Eventually, pieces break
off the ice-shelf and an iceberg is born. The formation of
icebergs in the Antarctic in this manner is completely different
from that in the Arctic which leads to icebergs at either end of
the world being different shapes. Antarctic icebergs tend to be
relatively low and flat but can be very large whilst arctic
icebergs are much smaller. Over 90% of the ice locked in icebergs
is to be found in Antarctica.
It is unlikely that this particular event is connected to
global warming as the advance of the icesheet is a continual
process. Even with the calving of this monster, the edge of the
ice-shelf has simply returned to where it was about 50 years ago.
There is much interest in what will happen to B-15 and associated
icebergs. Most scientists expect it to drift north-west then west
staying close to the Antarctic coast. Another scenario is that it
will drift north and then east passing through the Drake Passage
between Antarctica and South America and into the South Atlantic
Timeline/Diary of main events
20-March-2000: first image of the B-15 Iceberg, three days after the initial report of the calving
13-April-2000: new iceberg to the East - B-17
09-May-2000: Press Release from RAL: B-15 Iceberg.
23-May-2000: B-15 iceberg broken in two - B-15A and B-15B
17-Sept-2000: Cloud Streets
29-Sept-2000: new iceberg forms - B-20, with the B-15A and B-15B continuing to drift apart
24-Oct-2000: B-20 renamed C-16, since it broke away from the Ross Ice Shelf in the 'C' sector of the Atlantic
07-Dec-2000: It appears that perhaps a new iceberg, B-15F, has broken from the B-15B iceberg.
Many thanks to ESA's NRT system for the help that has been provided in tracking the Ross Iceberg
Page last modified : Thursday, 06-Dec-07