Video: Mammoth Iceberg Five Times the Size of Manhattan Splits From West Antarctica Glacier

An enormous iceberg five times the size of Manhattan dropped off West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier.

Images shared by scientist Stef Lhermitte from the Netherland's Delft University of Technology showed the 115 square-mile chunk of ice had slowly split from the glacier over several days. Other massive pieces of ice fractured around the berg as it splintered off.

“Iceberg B-46 did not live very long, as it already fragmented in several pieces today, one day after calving from Pine Island Glacier,” Llhermite wrote on Twitter Tuesday

The video shined a light on Antarctica’s retreating ice. Warm waters are thought to melt the bottom of ice shelves, making them weaker and more likely to fracture, the iStar science program reported on its website. IStar—supported by numerous international universities—works to understand the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The fastest-shrinking glacier in the world, Pine Island added more to the rise of sea levels than any other ice stream, according to iStar. But the melting of individual icebergs, Llhermitte told Newsweek, did not contribute to sea level rise. 

Although calving events are "part of the natural cycle of glaciar tongues," he said, "it is clear that since 2015 the calving front retreated when compared to records extending back to the early 1970s." In other words, this section of ice has been shrinking back for some time.

"Calving events are often a complex interplay of various stresses and weakness, and it is therefore not always that straightforward to say what causes an individual event," he added.

"[But] it seems that the calving regime is changing with the loss of the pinning points" that meet the ocean floor.

This latest fracture is—pardon the pun—just the tip of the iceberg news. As Earth warms, more and more icebergs split off ice shelves. Some even threaten human populations. Earlier this year, areas of a small village in Greenland were evacuated when a giant iceberg approached their homes.

“There are 180 inhabitants, and we are very concerned and are afraid," Karl Peterson, a resident of the tiny coastal village in the island settlement of Innaarsuit, said at the time. Villagers feared falling chunks of the enormous berg would create dangerously high waves.

Just weeks earlier, New York University researchers released footage of a large iceberg splintering off a Greenland glacier. “Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential,” David Holland, a professor at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematics and NYU Abu Dhabi, said in a statement at the time.

“By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, firsthand, its breathtaking significance. The better we understand what’s going on means we can create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change," NYU scientist Denise Holland added.

Last year, a trillion-ton iceberg named A-68 calved from Antarctica’s iconic Larsen C Ice Shelf. Earlier this summer, the giant block of ice began rotating, and scientists feared it could collide with its parent shelf.

“If A-68 does collide with the Larsen C Ice Shelf, it will be slow, and there won’t be explosions or anything,” polar oceanographer Mark Brandon from the Open University in London told Newsweek in August. “But I would expect the forces within the ice to break iceberg A-68 into smaller, but still huge, fragments. It is possible it could fracture the ice of the ice shelf.”

In the end, Brandon said the iceberg and its fragments would likely move gradually toward the Antarctic Island of South Georgia, where they would eventually decay.

"Antarctica is currently one of the largest uncertainties for...projections of sea level rise, but observations show that it is losing mass rapidly," Llhermitte said. "This can have important implications for coastal communities, [so we] need to better understand how much sea level rise we can expect."

This article has been updated to include a comment from Stef Lhermitte.

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