Antarctica 10/23/02

MODIS image of Antarctica

MODIS bands 1,4,3 RGB true color image of Antarctica on the 23rd of October 2002. The image displays B-15A and C-19 icebergs in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

The emergence of Antarctica from months of total darkness reveals the location of new icebergs that calved off the Ross Ice Shelf during the long winter. Some of the icebergs shown in this true-color MODIS image of Antarctica are on the move. Along the western portion of the image lie the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. In the center is the Ross Sea. Banked up against the Antarctic coastline is the vast Ross Ice Shelf (bottom right). Numerous large icebergs have calved off the shelf and are visible in this image.

Scientists believe these large icebergs are part of the natural cycle of the shelf, and unlike the collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf on the other side of the continent, are probably not due to rising ocean temperatures. The shelf forms as snowfall on the continent slides slowly off the sides of Antarctica and pushes out to sea. While a large portion of the shelf is underwater, it is still afloat (not anchored to the bottom of the ocean), and eventually, the shelf collapses under its own massive weight, producing icebergs.

Image and text courtesy of NASA's MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.