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)

    That's kind of a stretch. If you look closely at the "before" pictue, you can clearly see that the large rectangular piece had already started to seperate from the majority of the ice pack.
    You guys need to STOP sensationalizing things just to get you piece posted.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • BH

      Both pictures are after.

      August 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max Brooks


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

      You need to proof read your comments before you hit post. For that matter, you just should keep quiet

      August 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • shootmyownfood

      It appears that you are not familiar with satellite photos of ice fields, either Arctic or Antarctic. The appearance of cracks does not always indicate a separation; some of them are long-lasting ice fissures, such as one could see in a glacier. Indeed, if you read the entire article, this section of the Antarctic ice shelf has not changed substantially in 46 years. In fact, the article does not mention global warming in any way.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • CCHUCK

      Ha Ha Funny...bunch of idiots!

      August 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      C Chuck laughing at himself.

      August 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LOL

    @Truth how so we can watch evolution and shape it in the short term. Believer have a book that quite a few think shouldn't be taken literally. Explain how believing in fairy tails takes more faith then things we see with our own eyes?

    August 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GozieBoy

    It would be interesting to see another picture of this area, say, a full month before the tsunami and then judge the movements: well before, before and after the event. These two photos by themselves are completely inadequate to even suggest a cause and effect relationship. Not saying it didn't happen, but need more evidence to say it did happen.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rene

    Looks like the GOP spin machine is hard at work discrediting science, media, and education again. Why would people vote GOP if they are educated? If Chuck had read the article instead of looking at the pictures and denouncing science, he would have learned that the ice shelf had not moved in 46 years. That's significant, not good, not bad, just noteworthy. One would hardly call this article sensationalism unless they had their own agenda and were stretching for validation.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. outawork

    When scientists are paid by the government to find global warming they will.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • smartonly

      when scientists are paid by corporations to prove climate change a hoax, they will

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

      How does an earthquake that generates a tsunami relate to global warming? In no way whatsoever – it is a plate tectonic thing, and I have yet to hear any scientist or pundit or even any crank state that global warming is being driven by the interior of the globe. Your response has absolutely nothing to do with the article. Of course, loose ice floating in the ocean will eventually be carried to currents of warmer water, where it will melt. The amount produced by these icebergs, however, will probably not make a detectable difference in the ocean level.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeus

      Where exactly, other than in your extremely small mind, is global warming mentioned in the article ?

      August 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. david

    all of you people need to get a life. The planet is in constent change, and not you or me can stop it or change it. The people who do this for a living know what they are doing. Whe the ocean is at the front door of the White House then everyone will believe that the ice is melting. Until then, surfs up dude.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burbank

      Or just move to Texas. Drill baby drill!

      August 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. paulr50

    Just like Obama, that tsunami screwed up things around the world.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Go hump Sarah Palin's leg or something.

      August 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Burbank

    I wondered if the Chilean quake did anything to the ice shelf. It was much larger and closer.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bronco Bill

    Growing up in the 50's and 60's, the weather was cool with bitter winters. Everyone was anxious that we would no longer be able to grow food in the USA. Just mother earth's cyclical weather patterns.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kurt

    There are a lot of funny statements on this, but to address the one regarding why it wasn't in the news back in was. Just not on CNN. I know this is a crazy thought, but other news agencies do exist...

    August 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TALKing point

    Talk to Al Gore and he has different opinion. Al always blame on global warming. Global warming is not big enough to break the iceberg, DON'T you think?

    August 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kurt

    I would also like to know how many of you out there are scientists? There seem to be quite a few of you who think you are...but I am going to side with the ones who actually study this type of thing...

    August 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dale

    This is probably going to be a real stupid suggestion, but I see potential in these icebergs the water coming off of these iceberg is the monks the purest in the world. Why not just toe these icebergs someplace put a giant bladder under them and harvest the water.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """the water coming off of these iceberg is the monks the purest in the world. Why not just toe these icebergs someplace"""

      I prefer no monks' toes in MY water, thank you very much.

      """put a giant bladder under them and harvest the water."""

      Depends. No really, I mean a giant DEPENDS.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bobho

    hadn't moved in 46 years? I thought the world was so warm we are all going to die..... or is that the 12/21/12 thing that is going to kill us all?

    August 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tim W.

    This is great they can stop blaming me and my car for the breaking of ice at the south pole !

    August 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud Viet Nam Vet.

      I wouldn't say that yet Tim W. We see how you drive. LoL

      August 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Texas

      If you look at the first picture, the area of ice was already about to go. It had a huge crack that nearly went the entire length of it.
      The pictures do not form any conclusive proof. It may have been there over 40 years, but it was hanging by a thread and would have gone soon anyway. The 4 day period that lapsed between pictures is plenty of time for a coincidental breakoff of the ice.

      August 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Tim, are you a professional geologist or do you just have an amateur opinion?

      August 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Military in San Antonio

      I disagree Ryan.

      If you look at the extensiveness of the breakage, you understand that there's virtually no way that it all occurred coincidentally in JUST a 4-day period....

      SomeTHING.....caused a lot of ice to break pretty much all at once.......

      August 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Military in San Antonio

      And, oh yeah......that ice hadn't moved for 46 years and probably wouldn't have moved for another 46 years......if someTHING hadn't made it move.

      August 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • tct

      You must be a regular on Worlds Dumbest.

      August 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Texas

      Are we looking at the same picture? The first picture clearly shows a HUGE crack running the entire length of the ice BEFORE the Tsunami.
      If a 1 foot wave knocked it off, it was ready to go. Hence why we cannot rule out pure coincidence.
      Sorry folks, your standards of "science" are not reality. It would take MANY observations of this kind to come close to being called "proof". Since coincidence cannot be ruled out, no conclusion is possible from a few pictures.
      Keep in mind they didn't study the thousands of miles of ice that DIDN"T break off, only the mile that did.

      August 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • josh

      hey ryan in texas. march 11: tsunami. march 12: picture 1. march 16: picture 2. do the math

      August 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Texas

      Josh – all it shows is that the ice broke off in a 4 day period that coincidentally was when the tsunami was.
      I'm not seeing this as a math problem – but people win a baseball game and then won't launder the uniform until they lose. Never once do they consider it could just be a pure coincidence, and not a lucky uniform that made them win.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
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