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. Proud Viet Nam Vet.

    Hey they got the Money and that's what really counts in the end.-

    August 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. troy

    Oh do tell. Lunatic.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TRH

    Care to back up this statement with any cited reliable resources? No? I thought so.

    Oh and the guys who claim dinosaurs were never real and that their fossils were put there by god don't count as reliable resources.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Indeed. Why would the planet have been created in that manner? What are the odds God has such a twisted sense of humour?

      August 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rob

    It actually has been proven to be true. The earth IS warming. The BS is that the earth goes through natural cycles of warming and the question now is whether or not we are the factor that is causing the warming of if it is natural. Also, the debate is about whether or not this warming will have a significant impact on the earths ecosystems or if it is nothing to worry about

    August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • ByTheNumbers

      It is proven that the Earth goes through cycles of warming & cooling (the middle ages are known as "the little Ice Age"). The credible question is how much of the current warming is due to industrial activity? The next question is how accurate is the data? Science would be better served if some of those claiming "Global Warming" stopped manipulating their data to try getting a faster reaction (or just to sell a book).

      August 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Regardless of the cause of global warming or if it will have an effect on global ecosystems, I'm in texas and 60+ days of straight 100+ heat (now starting to be regulars of 108) is simply too hot.

      August 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Regardless of the cause or effect of global warming, regular highs of 108+ is just too damn hot!

      August 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ummm no

      So you are saying that the scientific proof of the earth's natural cycle of heating and cooling periods is all made up huh? I think you need to get back on your meds buddy. There is a mountain of evidence that supports that belief. I'm not saying mankind has no influence over this process, but you saying that proven facts are BS shows you clearly have an agenda to push regardless of the truth of the matter.

      August 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MM22

    kill: "Global warming has been proven to be a myth perpetuated by scientists trying to get grants."

    Err, sorry, but the science tends to show that the world is heating up, the question is whether or not human beings have contribute anything significant to the process.

    The earth's atmosphere contains something like .03% CO2, and humans are responsible for (according to PBS) about 3% of the world's CO2 production a year.

    Is that fraction of a fraction of a percent the tipping point for the environment? Maybe.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      There has been no warming recorded since 1996, all scientists agree with that data. They just disagree with what it means.

      August 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      First of, when you use PBS as a source, your credibility is shot. This debate is over...Yes the earth goes through natural cycles...It has for 4 Billion years. No, Humans have no significant long lasting effect on the climate...we're powerful, but not that powerful...Use you head

      August 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fish

    And here are the facts to back it up...

    August 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • RGeneration

      So who's backing up the "Facts" in the link?

      August 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marcus

    Where in this article is global warming referenced, other than in the comments? The article talks about the propagation of waves due to seismic activity, and how scientists were able to match the effect of the calving of the icebergs to the cause of the earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis.

    Go troll somewhere else, please.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. truthiness

    What's all this stuff about global warming??This article is about global wave-ing!

    August 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      So true. Love your ability to put it so succinctly.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. keeth

    they have presented their evidence, now you present yours.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Maryann - Orlando FL

    Hahahahaha!! The 'facts' that 'Fish' posted come from an organization of people who want to continue to pollute the air with combustion vehicles.

    Helluva 'fact' there, Fishie.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fish

      What does it matter what the organization's intent is? Facts are facts....

      August 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Williams

    You're just a troll sweltering in a loin cloth.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike Smith

    Yes, there is global warming. Here is the proof

    August 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amused

      Mike, I read the Wikipedia article you cite, but found no proof of anything at all in the article. The fact is, the climate is changing. The climate is ALWAYS in a state of change, either warmer, cooler, wetter, drier – it is always in flux. The very notion that our climate has been perfectly stable throughout history for thousands of years until we created industry is completely false! The geologic record, tree ring records and ice core records ALL agree and show that huge changes in our climate have always been the norm ! The deep ice core samples from Antartica and from Greenland show that this current warming cycle started more than two thousand years ago, long before the industrial revolution! Let me explain that I am an environmentalist! I dutifully participate in recycling programs, clean water efforts and strongly support the reduction of poisonous gases being released into the air that we breath! We desperately need to clean up our fesh water supplies and our air quality for our own well being and for future generations! BUT, there is no reason to believe that ANY of these efforts will change the characteristics of our climate ! Yes, I agree that we should reduce our burning of fossil fuels for the sake of our health, but don't try to tell me that these efforts will change the weather! That is complete nonsense! There is NO scientific evidence to support the belief that we can change climate! NONE at all...

      August 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. HW

    "The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf"

    That doesn't seem right. At 8,000 miles and hour the wave could have traveled 144,000 miles...or enough to circle the planet nearly six times. Are you sure it didn't travel at 800 mph, traveling a distance of 14k miles, or half way around the earth?

    August 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabe

      Try reading. It helps.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Please read (carefully) what you just wrote.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      I just did a full face-palm reading your post. Try moving a little more s-l-o-w-l-y next time.

      August 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • considering

      your reading comprehension is a little off.

      8000 miles is the distance the wave traveled.
      18 hours is the time it took to travel 8000 miles.

      the waves were not traveling at 8000 mph. they were traveling closer to 444 mph (8000/18).

      August 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Military in San Antonio

      LMAO @ HW......just LMAO!

      August 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • laza jamaica

      what thehell dude?!!!! this isn't a math class!! You should read more carefully, ok math teacher. h and it's "an hour" not "and hour" ok???

      August 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Management

      HW, please post more frequently. You are a valuable contributor, and we thank you.

      August 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • f

      Your reading comprehesion was thrown off by the force of the tsunami wave. Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk......

      August 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Exception

      HW was just demonstrating to the world an example of another American who should have flunked out of both math and English.

      August 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick Springfield

      I get it now, George (HW) Bush.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anderson Cooper

      I'm guessing that "HW" doesn't stand for "Home Work."

      August 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • someone

      People – Leave HW alone. Enough already. AS if all of you always get Everything right. At least he tried to think ...

      August 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gibb

      Boy, tough crowd here. Sometimes people misread things, soooooo? I of course, and everyone else here but HW, have never misread anything. But still–I have heard of this happening.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Coolius Unroolius

    @HW: "The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf." What that means is that the DISTANCE was 8,000 and this DISTANCE was covered in 18 hours. The article never stated that the RATE the waves traveled was 8,000 miles per hour. If you are not a native English language speaker, I understand you might be easily confused by our language. If English is your first language, go back to school to learn how to read you illiterate dunce.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick


      August 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Coolius Unroolius

    Global warming is a sign of the damage done to the ecosystem. Global warming deniers are a sign of the damage done to the education system.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Military in San Antonio

      Gotta agree with that!!

      August 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cadecker

      the system is already buggered up... deniers cant mess it up even more

      August 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • we didn't start!

      then explain how mars' temp. has risen in the past decade. damn those polluting little green guys. the earth heating and cooling is a NATURAL process that has been occuring forever. ask those dinosaurs that flourished during the period of heating then died off when the earth cooled a few degrees. do we impact the temp, i'm sure like a 1/10 of a degree. if we think anymore, i think we just are suffering from delusions of grandure.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      The book of Revelations has always stated the end of the times. All creatures in the sea die and cease,to give life to man. It also is written that the earth becomes hotter causing famines. Whether God allows man to cause these events or divine intervention, they still happen.

      August 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim W.

      The debate is not if global warming is a real thing or not.....the debate is on how much of it is caused by mankind ! I say mankinds part of global warming is equal to a 10 year old boy P'n in the ocean ! Mother Nature is 99% to blame !

      August 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
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