Over the past two and a half years, several large icebergs have separated from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and some have made their way out into the Pacific Ocean to melt. Mainland Antarctica lies across the left side of the image. The Ross Ice Shelf is the solid, uniform white mass on the lower right-hand corner of the image.
B-15A was part of the larger B-15 iceberg that was the size of Connecticut when it calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. B-15A is now trapped by water currents against Ross Island, L-shaped mountainous outcroppings near the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. Iceberg C-19 formed most recently, breaking free of the shelf in May of 2002. Two months ago C-19 sat right next to B-15A. C-19 has been moving north away from the ice shelf slowly since.
There is evidence to suggest that ice shelves act as a brake for the glaciers that pour into them. Without the Ross Ice Shelf in place, the glaciers that feed it may begin pumping ice into the sea at a faster rate, which could raise sea levels. The above image, taken on November 17, 2002, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.