The birth of Behemoth

Larsen C ice shelf is situated in the Antarctica continent, in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, south of Argentina. In the last year Larsen C has been frequently monitored on ground and from satellites because one of the largest iceberg ever discovered started to break from the ice platform.

larsen_c_ice_shelf

This iceberg, named Behemoth (see rift development above, credit to A.Luckman, MIDAS project, Swansea University), is extended around 6000 km^2 (more than twice the size of Luxembourg, comparable to Wales) and on July 12th 2017 the last connection to Larsen ice shelf melted, releasing this marine giant free to run across the Oceans.

Copernicus satellites Sentinel-1A, with its Synthetic Aperture Radar, and Sentinel-3A, with the infrared bands of the SLSTR instrument, captured the evolution of the birth of Behemoth starting from the end of June up to the break. The animation below has been generated using several SLSTR images, all processed with the 12 μm thermal infrared response. The used classification shows the hottest pixel in darker colors, whereas the coldest part on the ground have brighter colors.

larsen_crack_4
SLSTR Sentinel-3A Behemoth birth evolution

The iceberg is located in the middle of the animation: the break is clearly visible starting from the 12th of July images and its walk away from the ice shelf evident on 13th and 14th of July. SLSTR thermal bands have a resolution of 1km, this implies that the iceberg movements are quite rapid.

The Sentinel-1A SAR offers a different overview of the same phenomenon. This instrument’s acquisition isn’t disturbed by meteorological and atmospheric conditions so the image’s processing returns a crystal clear overview of Behemeoth break. This is showed in the below animation, generated with two consecutive before event/after event acquisitions (same days of Sentinel-3A sensed images).

larsen_crack_sar
SAR Sentinel-1A Behemoth birth evolution

We’ll keep to take a look at this marine giant in the next weeks. Stay updated!

Products are downloaded at:

http://scihub.copernicus.eu/

Ref.:

http://www.swansea.ac.uk/media-centre/latest-research/giantantarcticicebergsettobreakawaysayswansearesearchers.php

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