As the ice covering Antarctica melted, a new island emerged.

Antarctica’s east coast lost most of its Glenzer and Conger ice shelves, revealing a new island whose existence was hitherto completely unknown.

If confirmed, this (as yet unnamed) island would be one of a number of island regions that have been exposed in recent years as chunks of floating glacial ice surrounding the continent’s coasts.

Its surface is more or less rounded, and its length is just over three kilometers. It can be seen in this trio of natural color images acquired by Landsat satellites between 1989 and 2022. The island has kept its shape, even after the ice has broken off the shelf and the sea ice around it has grown and shrunk.

This round white piece did not change its position or shape, even after it fell on large icebergs following the rapid collapse of the Glenzer and Conger ice shelf earlier this year.

Also, it looks taller than its surroundings. Its elevation profile indicates that at least some of its mass is 30 to 35 meters above sea level. The data was acquired by the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) on NASA’s ICESat-2 Satellite on December 22, 2021.

Image of the discovered island PAN

They suspect whether it is an ice island or land.

But just because this mass moves and looks like an island doesn’t mean it really is, at least in the traditional sense. Scientists still aren’t sure if there is solid ground beneath the snow and ice.

John Gibson, a scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division, thinks the piece is likely an ice island: a large, heavy sheet of ice sitting solidly on top of an underwater summit. “It’s definitely similar to other ice islands like Bowman Island,” Gibson said in a statement. Said.

Gibson described this ice island as “self-sustaining,” meaning the accumulation of snow and ice on its surface offsets the amount of melting that occurs underwater. If this balance is disturbed by reduced snowfall, the ice island may become thinner and swim away. “The nameless island is a more or less permanent feature of the landscape,” “But one day it could separate from the underlying rock and turn into an iceberg,” Gibson said.

Location of the nameless island PAN

Since no one was there to observe this new geographic feature, there are questions about its structure. “To be absolutely sure, you would need to take a ship there to check the bedrock ledge.“There could be a radar for assessing ice thickness,” said Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist at the University of Maryland at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The profile of ICESat-2 shows that the surface is very high above sea level. If there were no bedrock at or above sea level, there would be a lot of “ice” on this “cone,” he added.

Whether traditional or an ice island, it is the latest in a group of similar elements no longer embedded in Antarctica’s floating ice. In 2019, the U.S. Geographic Names Board recognized Icebreaker Island, which was isolated from the Larsen B Ice Shelf along the Antarctic Peninsula in 1996. And in 2020, researchers on a cruise discovered a small, rocky, ice-covered island that could be part of the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf.

“Due to shrinking glaciers and sea ice, exploration of such islands is likely to continue for years to come,” Shuman said. Said.

Reference Work:


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