Text Size

Related Links


For more information contact:

Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center
(301) 286-4044

Mark Shwartz
Stanford News Service
(650) 723-9296,

Harvey Leifert
American Geophysical Union
(202) 777-7507

Elvia Thompson
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1696)

B-15 Iceberg story

SeaWiFS website

MODIS website

DMSP website

Viewable Images

Caption for Item 1: ICEBERG C-19 IN THE ROSS SEA, ANTARCTICA

The C-1 iceberg broke off the Ross shelf in May 2002. This is an image from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite. CREDIT: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team

Caption for Item 2: MOVEMENT OF THE C-19 ICEBERG

This is a map of the southwestern Ross Sea showing the drift path taken by iceberg C-19 beginning May 11, 2002 and moving up in the diagram. Also shown is the B-15A iceberg. CREDIT: Stanford University

Caption for Item 3: ANIMATION OF THE MOVEMENT OF THE C-19 ICEBERG

The animation shows the B-15 (left) and C-19 (center) icebergs in the Ross Sea and the movement of C-19 between September 22, 2002, and February 3, 2003. C-19 drifts from the center of the scene out to the far right edge. CREDIT: NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio. For high resolution stills from this animation, click here.

Caption for Item 4: SEA ICE AFFECTS SEA LIFE

These images from the years 2000, 2001 & 2002 shows the greatest amount of plankton in the Ross Sea occurred in 2000, as identified by yellow and red colors indicating chlorophyll in the floating plants. In 2002, more sea ice (dark gray) prevented plankton growth. Black areas are open water regions obscured by clouds. Major icebergs are in white and are labeled. CREDIT: Stanford University

Caption for Item 5: 25 YEARS OF POLYNYAS (OPEN WATER AREAS)

This chart depicts a 25 year record of area covered by polynya in the Ross Sea. In 2002, the area of polynyas, areas of open water surrounded by ice, is much lower than previous years, likely because of the extraordinarily high sea ice concentrations likely due to the calving of iceberg C-19. Polynyas form in areas where the wind blows the ice away or where warm water moves up from lower depths and melts the ice cover. CREDIT: Stanford University


Story Archives

The Top Story Archive listing can be found by clicking on this link.

All stories found on a Top Story page or the front page of this site have been archived from most to least current on this page.

For a list of recent press releases, click here.

October 01, 2003 - (date of web publication)

HUGE ANTARCTIC ICEBERG MAKES A BIG SPLASH ON SEA LIFE

 

C-19 iceberg in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Item 1

Hi res image

NASA satellites observed the calving, or breaking off, of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, named "C-19."

C-19 separated from the western face of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in May 2002, splashed into the Ross Sea, and virtually eliminated a valuable food source for marine life. The event was unusual, because it was the second-largest iceberg to calve in the region in 26 months.

Over the last year, the path of C-19 inhibited the growth of minute, free-floating aquatic plants called phytoplankton during the iceberg's temporary stopover near Pennell Bank, Antarctica. C-19 is located along the Antarctic coast and has diminished little in size. Since phytoplankton is at the base of the food chain, C-19 affects the food source of higher-level marine plants and animals.

 

Item 2

 

Kevin R. Arrigo and Gert L. van Dijken of Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., used chlorophyll data from NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS). The instrument, on the OrbView-2 satellite, also known as SeaStar, was used to locate and quantify the effects of C-19 on phytoplankton. The researchers were able to pinpoint iceberg positions by using images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The findings from this NASA-funded study appeared in a recent issue of the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters.

C-19 is about twice the size of Rhode Island. When it broke off the Ross Ice Shelf, the iceberg was 32 km (almost 20 miles) wide and 200 km (124 miles) long. It was not as large as the B-15 iceberg that broke off of the same ice shelf in 2001 but among the largest icebergs ever recorded.

 

still from ANIMATION OF THE MOVEMENT OF THE C-19 ICEBERG

Item 3

Click on image to view animation. Click here for high resolution stills from the animation.

Since it was so large, C-19 blocked sea ice from moving out of the southwestern Ross Sea region. The blockage resulted in unusually high sea-ice cover during the spring and summer. Consequently, light was blocked. Phytoplankton blooms that occur on the ocean surface were dramatically diminished, and primary production was reduced by over 90 percent, relative to normal years.

Primary production is the formation of new plant matter by microscopic plants through photosynthesis. Phytoplankton is at the base of the food chain. If they are not able to accomplish photosynthesis, all organisms above them in the food chain will be affected. "Calving events over the last two decades indicate reduced primary productivity may be a typical consequence of large icebergs that drift through the southwestern Ross Sea during spring and summer," Arrigo said.

 

These images from the years 2000, 2001 & 2002 shows the greatest amount of plankton in the Ross Sea occurred in 2000, as identified by yellow and red colors indicating chlorophyll in the floating plants

Item 4

Hi Res version

Arrigo and van Dijken also used imagery from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer, managed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The data was used to monitor the impact of C-19 on the movement of sea ice. The data is archived at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Arrigo said most of the face of the Ross Ice Shelf has already calved. There is another large crack, but it is very difficult to predict if and when another large iceberg will result.

 

Item 5

 

NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is dedicated to understanding the Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth System Science to improve prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space.

Back to Top