Image of the Week: Iceberg Separates from Larsen C Ice Shelf

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Detailed Description

Thermal satellite images are tracking A-68, a newly calved iceberg off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antartica.

At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface.
Hyperlink: USGS EROS Center (


Date Taken:

Length: 00:01:34

Location Taken: AQ


Around July 10–12, in the
middle of the long, dark

Antarctic winter, a rift in
the Larsen C Ice Shelf

broke through the last few
miles of ice to the Weddell Sea, 

forming a new iceberg. 
The NOAA National Ice Center

designated the Delaware-sized
iceberg A-68. 

In a July 12 image, the MODIS
sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite

shows relatively warm open water
completely around the new iceberg.

The crack between the iceberg
and the ice shelf is really a soup

of floating, broken pieces
of ice on top of the water. 

On the same date, TIRS on
Landsat 8 recorded its own image

showing the relative temperature
of the ice and the rift. The bright line

located at the edge of the Landsat
scene, is sea water at the freezing

point rather than frozen solid.

Ordinarily the Landsat acquisitions
for Antarctica shut down when

the sun gets close to the horizon,
which usually happens in this area

March or maybe early April.

A special request was made

to get nighttime imagery of the
Larsen C area to help track the

growth of the rift as it got closer
to breaking free. 

Landsat 8 is again, part of how
much remote sensing can do

to track the polar areas and
of course polar areas are

really experiencing the brunt
of climate change

on earth right now.