March 11 earthquake in Japan breaks icebergs from Antarctica shelf

August 9, 2011ANTARCTICA – Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues were able to link the calving of icebergs from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica following the Tohoku Tsunami, which originated with an earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011. The finding, detailed in a paper published online today in the Journal of Glaciology, marks the first direct observation of such a connection between tsunamis and icebergs. The birth of an iceberg can come about in any number of ways. Often, scientists will see the towering, frozen monoliths break into the polar seas and work backwards to figure out the cause. So when the Tohoku Tsunami was triggered in the Pacific Ocean on March 11 this spring, Brunt and colleagues immediately looked south. All the way south. Using multiple satellite images, Brunt, Emile Okal at Northwestern University and Douglas MacAyeal at University of Chicago were able to observe new icebergs floating off to sea shortly after the sea swell of the tsunami reached Antarctica. To put the dynamics of this event in perspective: An earthquake off the coast of Japan caused massive waves to explode out from its epicenter. Swells of water swarmed toward an ice shelf in Antarctica, 8,000 miles (13,600 km) away, and about 18 hours after the earthquake occurred, those waves broke off several chunks of ice that together equaled about two times the surface area of Manhattan. According to historical records, this particular piece of ice hadn’t budged in at least 46 years before the tsunami came along. And as all that was happening, scientists were able to watch the Antarctic ice shelves in as close to real-time as satellite imagery allows, and catch a glimpse of a new iceberg floating off into the Ross Sea. When the earthquake happened, Okal immediately honed in on the vulnerable faces of the Antarctic continent. Using knowledge of iceberg calving and what a NOAA model showed of the tsunami’s projected path across the unobstructed Pacific and Southern oceans, Okal, Brunt and MacAyeal began looking at what is called the Sulzberger Ice Shelf. The Sulzberger shelf faces Sulzberger Bay and New Zealand. Through a fortuitous break in heavy cloud cover, Brunt spotted what appeared to be a new iceberg in MODerate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data. –
This entry was posted in Earth Changes, Earth Watch, Earthquake Omens?, Land fissures, cracks, sinkholes, Seismic tremors, Strange high tides & freak waves. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to March 11 earthquake in Japan breaks icebergs from Antarctica shelf

  1. JerseyCynic says:

    I hope mr. Obama’s reference to earthquakes during his speech today was just coincidental:

    I know we’re going through a tough time right now.  We’ve been going through a tough time for the last two and a half years.  And I know a lot of people are worried about the future.  But here’s what I also know:  There will always be economic factors that we can’t control –- earthquakes, spikes in oil prices, slowdowns in other parts of the world.  But how we respond to those tests — that’s entirely up to us.  


  2. J Guffey says:

    Pretty impressive chunk of ice. The power of raw nature is amazing.


    • jones says:

      This is not raw nature…this is elenin’s pull on earth. There is going to be another nasty earthquake sometime this fall. Be prepared.


      • J Guffey says:

        I’m not so sure about “elenin”, but if it does turn out to be real, would that not still be considered a part of nature?


  3. JerseyCynic says:

    Alvin – It is done.


  4. L. Gavette says:

    It is all part; of the big picture of land reclamation. In 1991 the big energy charge of Australia that went south to Antartica under sea into the ground started the warm up. As the global shift happens; the land of Antartica will rotate north. It would take many more years for ground to heat up if energy was on surface, rather than from within. It is all about nature rather than man.


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