Antarctic Icebergs

Icebergs are, besides the basal melting of ice shelves, the main mass loss term of Antarctica. They break off (calve) at the ice shelf edges or glacier fronts and the distances between single surface features (e.g. crevasses or rifts) and the length of the calving front itself determine the size of the icebergs. Satellite images and especially Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery are preferable tools for the monitoring of ice shelf edge and icebergs. The surface features of ice shelves are mapped using an automated edge detection method.

Iceberg Detection

Once an iceberg was calved from an ice shelf or glacier, it drifted, mainly forced by the wind and the ocean currents, through the ocean – sometimes surrounded by open water, sometimes surrounded by sea ice. The automated detection of icebergs smaller than 18.5 km (giant icebergs are systematically tracked by the U.S. National Ice Center which are surrounded by sea ice is one of the main topics.

Related Topics

Polar Meteorology

Earth Observing Systems

Remote sensing technology for the polar regions

Sea Ice Drift and Deformation

Drift and deformation of sea ice


Charting the Arctic Tundra


Observation of coastal polynias

Snow Accumulation

Retrieval of snow accumulation rates


Our iceberg studies were funded by the German Research Council (DFG) in the Special Priorities Programme "Antarktisforschung".