Iceberg bigger than Mayo breaks off Antarctic ice shelf

Posted July 13, 2017

The most recent measurements from this summer put the rift at 124 miles (200 km) long, with the now-calved iceberg hanging on by a thread; just 3 miles (5 km) of ice connected it with the rest of the ice shelf.

Though scientists have been expecting its latest move - which reportedly occurred sometime between Monday, July 10, and Wednesday, July 12 - for a while now, I'm feeling unsettled by the news. The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, is described as weighing 1 trillion tons (1.12 trillion USA tons).

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has been created after breaking free from an ice shelf in Antarctica.

Map showing iceberg detachment based on data from NASA dated July 12
Map showing iceberg detachment based on data from NASA dated July 12

Climate change likely isn't the cause this time because there hasn't been ice thinning, in fact this ice shelf has actually thickened, Schoof said.

"Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters", he added.

According to MIDAS, a previous ice shelf named Larsen B disintegrated 15 years ago after its own large calving event, and Larsen C may follow suit.

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The fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica is called Larsen C. It has a surface area of around 20,000 square miles.

Sea levels will not immediately rise, according to Project MIDAS, as A68 was already floating, but further destabilization of the ice shelf could lead to its collapse, which would contribute to rising sea levels.

'The final breakthrough was detected in data from NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite instrument, which images in the thermal infrared at a resolution of 1km, and confirmed by NASA's Suomi VIIRS instrument'.

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"Ocean warming could affect other ice shelves in Antarctica that are holding back massive ice sheets", said Ekwurzel.

One of the biggest icebergs on record has broken away from Antarctica, creating an extra hazard for ships around the continent as it breaks up. The mission, which makes airborne surveys of changes in polar ice, completed its eighth consecutive Antarctic deployment later that month.

Although it's being considered a "natural event", scientists said the ice shelf is now in an extremely precarious position.

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While the remaining ice shelf will continue naturally to regrow, previous research has shown that the new configuration is potentially less stable than it was prior to the rift.