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Researchers discover Antarctic ice tongue deformation triggered by Tonga volcanic tsunami

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-03-27 16:05

BEIJING -- Chinese researchers have disclosed that a tsunami triggered by last year's Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption caused the collapse of the Drigalski ice tongue front in Antarctica, according to a recent research article published in the journal Science Bulletin.

The powerful explosion occurred on Jan 15 2022. The resulting tsunmami, triggered by the eruption of the volcano, travelled over 6,000 km before hitting the coast of Victoria Land, Antarctica, said the article.

Less than two hours after the tsunami arrived, a crack appeared in the front of the ice tongue. A subsequent remote sensing image showed that an iceberg measuring about 45 square kilometers had apparently broken off from the front of the tongue.

Previous studies of the impact of the volcano eruption focused on atmospheric disturbances, while the researchers believed that its effects could extend far beyond that.

The Drigalski ice tongue section has a length of 140 km, with a thickness between 300 and 700 meters, according to the researchers from the School of Geospatial Engineering and Science, Sun Yat-sen University. It experienced two major calving events in the past 70 years.

The study provides detailed observational evidence and confirms the connection between the tsunami and the iceberg calving, said Cheng Xiao, professor with the School of Geospatial Engineering and Science, adding that the research implies the stability of ice shelves in Antarctica may be influenced by extreme events outside the polar regions.

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