At about 600 miles long and encompassing 472,000 square km (182,000 square miles), Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf is about the size of Canada’s Yukon Territory, and considered to be the world’s largest body of floating ice. It lies between about 155° W and 160° E longitude and 78° S and 86° S latitude and floats over the head of the Ross Sea.
The massive floating sheet of ice is attached to land and is fed by numerous glaciers. Although a permanent fixture, the long sun-filled days and warmer temperatures of summer cause melting of the sea ice around the Ross Ice Shelf, as well as melting and erosion of the edges of the shelf. At times, icebergs break off the shelf and become free-floating in the Ross Sea, such as B-15, the largest iceberg ever recorded, which calved in March 2000.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this sunny summer true-color image of the Ross Ice Shelf on January 3, 2013.
Melting sea ice appears as light blue/white ice swirls off the coast in the center of the image, and as a teaming mass of irregular chunks in the north. The Ross Ice Shelf appears smooth and a pristine bright white in the lower right. Glaciers which feed the shelf appear as wide, smooth bands of ice. The roughened texture which runs north to south in this image represents the Transantarctic Mountains, a 1,800 mi (2,900 km) long chain of rugged ridges which divides Antarctica into east and west sections. The Ross Ice Shelf lies in West Antarctica.