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Scientists have been investigating the mechanisms by which Antarctic icebergs detach from the main continental ice sheet because of the importance of determining the future stability of the entire Antarctic ice mass. Little is known about the processes and forces that lead to iceberg detachments, or "calving."
Furthermore, glaciologists believe areas called ice "shelves," floating slabs of ice that extend from the coasts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet out to sea, may be the first indicators of how climate change is affecting the Antarctic continent because of their direct contact with the ocean and their sensitivity to air temperature warming.