February 13, 2020 - 10:38 AMT
Iceberg bigger than Yerevan breaks off a glacier in Antarctica

An iceberg has broken off Pine Island Glacier (PIG) on the edge of Antarctica, according to satellite images taken Tuesday, February 11 by the European Space Agency (ESA).

And it's a big one. At more than 300 square kilometers (116 square miles), the iceberg was almost as big as Atlanta and bigger than Yerevan, the Armenian capital -- although it very quickly fragmented.

"What you are looking at is both terrifying and beautiful," Mark Drinkwater, head of the Earth and Mission Sciences Division at the ESA, told CNN.

"It is clear from these images (that the Pine Island Glacier) is responding to climate change dramatically," he added.

While icebergs calving from glaciers is a natural process, Drinkwater made it clear that the rate of melting and calving being seen in West Antarctica is greater than anything observed in the satellite record.

He pointed to an "imbalance" in the glacial system, which meant the impacts of warming temperatures, warmer ocean water and declining of snowfall were not allowing the glacier to replenish itself.

Pine Island Glacier, along with its neighbor Thwaites Glacier, effectively act as arteries connecting the West Antarctic ice sheet to the ocean. The region holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by 1.2 meters, or 4 feet, according to NASA.