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Japan's Tsunami tore off Manhattan-sized iceberg in Antarctica

Using satellite imagery from NASA pictures of Earth, scientists have discovered that earthquake triggered waves struck the Sulzberger Ice Shelf and ripped apart a sizable chunk of it.

Japan's devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March affected the lives of at least 15,600 people, caused the worst nuclear disaster in more than two decades and also broke off nearly 50 square miles of icebergs from Antarctica, NASA scientists report.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. The quake, which according to the US Geological Survey struck at a depth of 18 kilometres, surpassed the Great Kanto quake of Sept. 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and engulfed more than 140,000 lives in the Tokyo area.

The powerful earthquake had jolted Japan's north-eastern coast, triggering a tsunami that had swept away dozens of cars, boats, and buildings along side the coast. The 13-foot earthquake-triggered tsunami also produced a wave that radiated throughout the rest of the world’s oceans.

Tsunami can cause icebergs
Now it turns out that the effects of the double-headed tragedy were felt as far away as the Antarctic, according to a new study, released by NASA today.

The destructive wave traveled 8,000 miles through the Pacific and Southern Oceans until it battered a 260ft tall wall of ice at the southern tip of Earth, NASA scientists have discovered.

The resulting tsunami caused massive chunks of ice with a combined surface area about twice that of Manhattan in New York to break off from an ice shelf on the coast of Antarctica.

The destructive wave traveled 8,000 miles through the Pacific and Southern Oceans until it battered a 260ft tall wall of ice at the southern tip of Earth, NASA scientists have discovered.

Waves hit Sulzberger Ice Shelf
Using satellite imagery from NASA pictures of Earth, the scientists discovered that 18 hours after the earthquake struck, waves began hitting the Sulzberger Ice Shelf which has barely moved in nearly 50 years.

In the study, Kelly Brunt, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and her fellow researchers Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago and Emile Okal of Northwestern University, found that the waves were little more than a foot high when they reached Antarctica.

Brunt said, “We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history - we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source.”

Waves were just 1ft high, but impact was huge
Although the wave was just 1ft high there but its effect was so huge that it broke off more than 50 square miles of ice from the shelf, which is more than 260 feet thick.

“This [is] the first observational evidence linking a tsunami to ice-shelf calving,” the authors wrote

Explaining in an example how the phenomenon took place, Dr. MacAyeal said when soldiers walk across a bridge, they have to break step so as not to run the risk of collapsing it.

“It’s the same principle here,” he said. “Vibrations on the ocean surface caused by the tsunami came into Antarctica and vibrated the surface of the ice at just the resonance frequency, and it just broke.”

The US space agency says the find "marks the first direct observation of such a connection between tsunamis and icebergs."

The research was published in the online edition of the Journal of Glaciology.