Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs
Top image shows the Sulzberger Ice Shelf on March 12 and the bottom on March 16 after the tsunami broke off icebergs.
August 9th, 2011
09:40 AM ET

Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs

The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn't moved in 46 years, scientists say.

Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.

It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.

The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.

"In the past we've had calving events where we've looked for the source. It's a reverse scenario - we see a calving and we go looking for a source," Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. "We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history - we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source."

Emile Okal at Northwestern University and Douglas MacAyeal at the University of Chicago collaborated in the study.

"This is an example not only of the way in which events are connected across great ranges of oceanic distance, but also how events in one kind of Earth system, i.e., the plate tectonic system, can connect with another kind of seemingly unrelated event: the calving of icebergs from Antarctica's ice sheet," MacAyeal said in the NASA statement.

Watch NASA video on the research

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Antarctica • Earthquake • Japan • NASA • Natural Disasters • Tsunami • World
soundoff (208 Responses)
  1. MattNAustin


    August 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |

    I farted that same day. Coincidence?

    August 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • irbsod

      Actually that is probably what caused the doubling of the methane levels in the atmosphere

      August 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sue Nami

    My bad, Antarctica!

    August 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bobba Fett

    and Al Gore gets another dollar.

    August 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Trey

    Love how it says the Tsunami "cracked" the ice, when it appears all it did was shift the icebergs from their position. The picture represents an already cracked ice shelf. Keep streaching CNN... one day you'll be acurate...

    August 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      one day you will learn how to spell (accurate).

      August 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      Did you even look at the photo?

      We'll eagerly await your next scientific findings, Einstein. Are you one of those scientifically illiterate people wondering how we evolved even though "there's still monkeys runnin' around"? Just curious...

      August 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      They hadn't moved for 47 years prior to that – so it made the cracks deeper – and then it moved them.

      August 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • PushingBack

      @Trey – actually you made an assumption on the photos. A "before tsunami" photo was not included...just the day after and then 4 days later.

      August 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. asdf

    Whats funky is how earthquakes, volcanoes and bodile strikes can all cause each other. I bet the meteor that hit 65 million years ago not only caused earthquakes but probably volcanic eruptions as well. Something as big as a mountain hitting the earth at many kilometers a second is a whole lot of kinetic energy.

    August 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard

    Awww, the envirokooks and the global warmers can't blame this one on global warming! But they probably will anyway.

    August 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      I don't think anyone with a brain and intellect above that of a 3 month old cat can really respond to whatever it is you just said.

      August 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      cmon Richard, you know a cow stepped in the ocean, farted and caused the tsunami. and since cow farts are one of the predominate causes of global warming...............

      August 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I dont know, how thick would the ice have been without the warming?

      August 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Seth69n

    How could they say this was the cause without any proof. Where the scientist there? Anyone see this shelf break apart? Where is the data from ground sensors? Anything could have happened it those four days. I think it was hundreds of penguins using pickaxes. Its just as plausible as anything those "scientist " said.

    August 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • helpmejeebus

      A penguin using a pickaxe is hardly plausible! Where did they buy them?

      August 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Where the scientist there?"""

      Your a dope. Sew their!

      See? I can massacre English too!

      BTW, we know all kinds of things about Uranus even though only your head has been there.

      August 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """A penguin using a pickaxe is hardly plausible! Where did they buy them?"""


      August 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Since the scientists can see the before images their data is believable by those of us with scientific educations and understanding of the problem. Denial won't make it go away no matter how much you wish it.

      In spite of the weird and wacky claims, no one has anything to gain under the climate change model. However, under the climate change deniers, there are many who have much to gain, beginning with the oil companies. Look it up for yourself, Seth. Learn something new.

      August 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Roy

    Anything to politically spin things, huh Richard. I bet you think the earth is flat lol

    August 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AaronT3

    Some scale on the picture would be nice

    August 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Harry Merkin

    geesus,,, u people r stupid.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thenextstep

    Must be all that global warming again...............

    August 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. thegadfly

    I'm waiting for the whole Antarctic ice cover to just lose its grip and slide off into the ocean. Now THAT would be a tsunami.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. epicjourney

    Global warming is man made alright – made by all the hot air spewing from these forums.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. epicjourney

    Ever notice global warming results have increased since inception of the internet? Does that mean global warming was created by Al Gore?

    August 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • scientific method

      1) Make spurious assumption
      2) Draw a conclusion based on a logical fallacy
      3) ?
      4) Profit

      August 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott in NH

      Yeah, I think you've pretty much pegged the scientific method there. I mean, aside from transistors, radio, refrigeration, computers, lasers, anesthesia, CT scanners, ultrasound, microwave ovens, lunar landings, pacemakers, antibiotics, physics, airplanes, the internet, LCD screens, television, fiber optics, recorded music, blood tests, vaccines, and the elimination of polio, have these scientists done a damn thing???

      August 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • PushingBack

      Oh, polio will be back...back with a vengeance! And it's coming with it's trusty sidekick, bubonic plague!

      August 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephen Colbert

      What have the Romans ever done for us?

      August 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burbank

      Try moving to Texas and see if that answers your question.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2EL8

      Yes, since NASA disproved global warming they can’t blame it on that anymore. Maybe Al will come up with something else.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • wiflash

      Sine Al Gore created the Internet, it is logically perfect.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • shootmyownfood

      Are you alleging that earthquakes and tsunamis are caused by global warming? That's just weird. The article on which you are commenting doesn't even go there.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2EL8

      Hey Burbank, what's your point about moving to Texas? I live in Texas. If you're talking about the heat, that is just Texas in July and August, get used to it or get out. If your thinking the heat is due to Global warming, get proof.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • BuckyFullersterMatrix

      @Scott in NH – regarding the discoveries of science, transistors, etc. Either Marshall Mcluhan and/or Terrence McKenna said that science is like driving by looking in the rearview mirror. It so much wanted to remove the creator from the dominant fundamentalist brainwashing of the church that it went to the other extreme and left nature devoid of extra sensory existance and created it's own dead religion. If you were open minded enough, you would think that the largest amount of scientific surgence (after Edison stole Teslas ideas) in/after 1947. Know any weird things said to occur in 1947 in Roswell at the time? This implication of ET seeding of our technologies is more a possibility than most folks would like to let on. And don't forget that Steve Jobs creative breakthroughs, really as one of the top visionaries in the industry (love him or hate him) are the result in large part of his mind being opened up by early lsd experiences. We fear to become more than we currently are or to have content with those more able and wiser than ourselves.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave in Ontario

      What have the Romans ever done for us? You mean other than the aqueduct, the sanitation, the roads (which go without saying), irrigation, medicine, health and the wine (which we'd really miss) ...

      August 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • bandit109

      2El8, uhh it was the warmest July on record for no, not really normal.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
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