Iceberg in Antarctica Is Watched in Wisconsin

March 22, 2000 | Mike Key

An iceberg about twice the size of Delaware is breaking off Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. Discovered by National Science Foundation forecasters in McMurdo Sound this weekend (since Friday, March 17), the berg is about one-third the width of the Ross Ice Shelf, according to satellite images displayed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The university’s Antarctic Meteorological Research Center (AMRC) is the only Antarctic site that provides satellite imagery in real time, according to program manager Matthew Lazzara. Professor Douglas MacAyeal, University of Chicago geophysicist, saw the iceberg in weekly Antarctica station reports and forwarded the information to UW–Madison, where Lazzara has been monitoring it since. It is assumed to be among the largest ever to form.

Satellites orbiting the earth from pole to pole at about 700 km above the earth provide the imagery used to show the iceberg. They are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and provide data about twice a day.

The iceberg lies between 178.5 ° W and 164 ° W, and is about 295 km by 37 km (about 183 by 23 miles). McMurdo Station, where most U.S. researchers are stationed in Antarctica, is about 370 km (230 mi) from the western edge of the iceberg. UW–Madison’s AMRC is housed at the Space Science and Engineering Center and is supported primarily by the National Science Foundation.

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