With rising temperatures and significant climatic changes projected for Antarctica in the coming years, the icy continent will benefit from a respite. Now he got it because he had just nearly collided with a giant iceberg twice the size of Chicago.
The iceberg in question is A-74. Originally attached to Antarctica, it burst into open waters back in February, as a result of a large fissure that broke through the Brunt Ice Shelf in just a few months.
Then, over the past six months, the A-74 kept close to its original position, mainly due to the prevailing ocean currents in the area; but in early August, a strong easterly wind caused the iceberg to move south and twist, changing its course.
Along the way, it brushed against the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf, where he was born, in what the European Space Agency (ESA) called a "minor collision."
If it were strong, then another giant piece could break off from Brunt.
"A nasal chunk of the ice shelf, even larger than the A-74, remains connected to the Brunt Ice Shelf, but just barely," says ESA geophysicist Mark Drinkwater.
"If the iceberg hit this piece with more force, it could accelerate the destruction of the remaining ice bridge, leading to its separation. We will continue to regularly monitor the situation using Sentinel satellite imagery."
These satellite images are critical to understanding what is happening to Antarctica on the largest scale: integrated radar instruments are capable of capturing the most remote regions day and night, summer and winter, in all weather conditions.
The A-74, with an area of 1,270 square kilometers (490 square miles), is one of the largest free-floating icebergs in the world (the largest is the A-76 iceberg, which descended earlier this year and covers an area of 4,320 square kilometers).
If the A-74 did crash into the Brent Ice Shelf, then, according to ESA, a new iceberg of about 1,700 square kilometers (656 square miles) could have formed.
This is due to the presence of other cracks that have put the western edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf in a perilous position - Chasm 1, which runs from the south, and the Halloween crack in the north, which runs from west to east.
Meanwhile, shifts in ice haunt researchers: in 2017, the Halley VI research station was moved 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) to make it safer from the ice shelf sliding that scientists knew could happen.
Halley Station consists of eight interconnected pods mounted on skis, making it easy to move pods in the event of unstable ice or the formation of new chasms on the ice shelf,”explains ESA in a statement.
Late last year, another free-floating iceberg, the A68a, came dangerously close to South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic, home to millions of penguins, sea lions, albatrosses and petrels.
As the climate crisis continues to evolve around the world, scientists need all the information about how Antarctic ecosystems may change in the coming years. In the meantime, the icebergs will continue to arrive.