One of the Largest Icebergs Ever Recorded Breaks Off From Antarctica

Pam Wright
Published: July 12, 2017

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has just broken off from Antarctica.

According to an announcement from the MIDAS Project, a UK-based Antarctic research project investigating the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf, the massive iceberg broke off sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

The iceberg that was observed by a U.S. satellite on Wednesday covers an area greater than 2,300 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware, and is more than 650 feet thick.

The break-off, or calving, was detected by an infrared sensor on NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite, which picked up warmer water between the two portions of ice, confirming the break.

"The calving occurred sometime between Monday 10th July 2017 and Wednesday 12th July 2017, when a 5,800 square km section of Larsen C finally broke away. The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, weighs more than a trillion tons. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes," researchers with the Project MIDAS said in a blog post.

For years, scientists have said the iceberg would break from the Larsen C ice shelf, a possible consequence of global warming. The crack in Antarctica's fourth largest ice shelf was first detected in 2011. 

(MORE: The Larsen C Ice Shelf Is Expected to Have Company)

According to Adrian Luckman, a professor and lead investigator with the MIDAS project, the iceberg, which is the third-largest ever recorded, will not move much in the short term but could move with currents and winds. 

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict, It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments," Luckman said in a statement on Wednesday. "Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."

Dr. Martin O'Leary, a glaciologist and a member of the Project MIDAS team, said the calving leaves the ice shelf in a vulnerable position.

“Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position," O'Leary said in a statement on Wednesday.

"This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

MORE: Larsen C Ice Shelf


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