Bizarre iceberg shaped like a sheet cake explained

Bizarre iceberg shaped like a sheet cake explained

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Bizarre iceberg shaped like a sheet cake explained

A bizarre iceberg said to be shaped like sheet cake—perfectly rectangular—had many buzzing on social media about its creation with some jokingly suggesting aliens were to blame.

Thankfully an ice scientist with NASA and the University of Maryland explained the odd formation that was captured last week in a photo by NASA as part of Operation IceBridge, an ongoing mission monitoring changes in polar ice.

“So, here’s the deal,” Kelly Brunt told Live Science. “We get two types of icebergs: We get the type that everyone can envision in their head that sank the Titanic, and they look like prisms or triangles at the surface and you know they have a crazy subsurface. And then you have what are called ‘tabular icebergs.'”

From Live Science:

Tabular icebergs are wide and flat, and long, like sheet cake, Brunt said. They split from the edges of ice shelves — large blocks of ice, connected to land but floating in the water surrounding iced-over places like Antarctica.

Tabular icebergs form, she said, through a process that’s a bit like a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end. They’re often rectangular and geometric as a result, she added.

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The image was taken on a flyover of the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula last Wednesday and NASA tweeted it, creating an assortment of humorous suggestions as to its origins.

ScienceAlert reported Monday that tabular icebergs can be hundreds and even of square miles with the largest ever recorded being 4,200 square miles. Brunt told Live Science this particular iceberg is likely more than a mile across, and that only 10 percent of its mass is visible with the rest hidden under water.

More about Operation IceBridge from NASA:

NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth’s polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system. IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets.

In addition, IceBridge collects critical data used to predict the response of earth’s polar ice to climate change and resulting sea-level rise.  IceBridge also helps bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA’s ICESat satellite missions.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

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