On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake rumbled the northeast coast of Japan at a depth of 24km. The resulting tsunami destroyed everything nearby, but most people thought it never affected other areas. Until now.
Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center, and other researchers have discovered evidence that shows the Tohoku Tsunami shattered Antarctica's coast, creating multiple icebergs. One of them was the size of Manhattan.
The earthquake generated sea swell that ran all through the Pacific basin. Within only 18 hours, a series of waves from the tsunami started to hammer the coast of Antarctica relentlessly. Finally, the waves force destroyed part of the gigantic ice sheets on the Sulzberger Ice Shelf — located 13,600km away from the epicentre. The shattering of the ice created large icebergs, one of it a whooping 130sqkm.
While scientists have speculated that seismic activity could be one of the explanations to some of the icebergs, this is the first time that direct proof has been discovered using NASA and ESA's satellites. According to Emile Okal at Northwestern University, this may explain other episodes:
In September 1868, Chilean naval officers reported an unseasonal presence of large icebergs in the southernmost Pacific Ocean, and it was later speculated that they may have calved during the great Africa earthquake and tsunami a month earlier. We know now that this is a most probable scenario.
University of Chicago's Douglas MacAyeal, the other scientists part of the group, said that "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 [...]the plate tectonic system, can connect with another kind of seemingly unrelated event: the calving of icebergs from Antarctica's ice sheet."