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Scientists are keeping a close eye on an enormous 'ice island' that is drifting out to sea.

Iceberg six times the size of Manhattan has drifted out to sea

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, April 21, 2014, 8:50 PM -

In November 2013 a massive iceberg called B31 separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, embarking on a journey across the Pine Island Bay.

Scientists at NASA have been keeping a close eye on this enormous ice island. It's roughly six times the size of Manhattan with an estimated thickness of 500 metres.

As of April 11, 2014, B31 measured 33 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide.

Now, after five months of drifting, B31 has been picked up by the currents of the Southern Ocean and is drifting out to sea.

RELATED: World's fastest-moving glacier is speeding up

“Iceberg calving is a very normal process,” noted Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.

“However, the detachment rift, or crack, that created this iceberg was well upstream of the 30-year average calving front of Pine Island Glacier (PIG), so this a region that warrants monitoring.”

Scientists are interested in this region because it has been thinning and draining rapidly over the past twenty years, contributing to rising sea levels.

Courtesy: NASA

Courtesy: NASA

B31 "has been well-tracked,” according to scientists, thanks to early detection of its calving --  but it will be difficult to monitor for the next six months as Antarctica heads into its dark period, NASA says.

While B31 is "now well out" of Pine Island Bay, researchers aren't sure if it's east or west of the Southern Ocean.

It's hoped that B31 will be able to provide valuable information about an iceberg's lifecycle.

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