Watch this vulnerable Antarctica glacier spawn iceberg 'piglets'

A chunk of ice the size of Orlando broke away from the Pine Island Glacier.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite snapped this view of cracks in the Pine Island Glacier on Sept. 14, 2019.


The Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is known as "PIG" for short. When it spawns chunks of icebergs, they're nicknamed "piglets." That sounds pretty cute until you look closer into what's happening with the glacier.

The European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite tracked the calving of a large iceberg covering an area of 115 square miles (300 square kilometers). That's about the size of Orlando, Florida.

ESA released a video compiled from 57 satellite images spanning from February 2019 to February 2020. It shows the rifts in the glacier growing before the iceberg splits off and breaks into the smaller "piglet" pieces.

NASA calls the Pine Island Glacier "one the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica" and notes that it's in a region with "enough vulnerable ice to raise global sea level by 1.2 meters (4 feet)."

ESA had anticipated this latest iceberg calving event since satellites spotted the cracks last year. The largest of the pieces is now known as "B-49."

"The Copernicus twin Sentinel-1 all-weather satellites have established a porthole through which the public can watch events like this unfold in remote regions around the world," said ESA senior scientist and cryosphere specialist Mark Drinkwater. "What is unsettling is that the daily data stream reveals the dramatic pace at which climate is redefining the face of Antarctica."  

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