Medicine

Trillion-tonne iceberg breaks free in Antarctica

Trillion-tonne iceberg breaks free in Antarctica

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

They announced Wednesday on their Project MIDAS blog that it appears the iceberg calved sometime between July 10 and 12. The neighboring Larsen-A and Larsen-B ice shelves suffered a similar fate with dramatic calving events in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

It weighs more than 1 trillion tons and is one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. For starters, although it's possible for warmer polar temperatures, both in the air above the ice shelf and in the water underneath it, to have sped up the process, icebergs do naturally break off from Antarctica in a process known as calving.

"Iceberg calving is a normal part of the glacier life cycle, and there is every chance that Larsen C will remain stable and this ice will regrow", he said.

The Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth largest in Antarctica, was long suspected to be on the verge of breaking off as hinted by an expanding deep crack. Researchers with Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research group, detected the break with the help of data from NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite. That means you would need about 21 million Titanic ships to make up the mass weight of this newly free iceberg.

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

It is believed to have separated from the main ice shelf after a Nasa satellite, which takes thermal images, appeared to show a crack that has been forming for some time had finally broken through.

The iceberg may remain unified but could break into smaller icebergs, professor Adrian Luckman, the project's lead investigator, said in a statement.

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

In the same eye-opening update on the Project MIDAS website, Dr. Martin O'Leary, a glaciologist, clarified that they're "not aware of any link to human-induced climate change".

And a spokeswoman for the British Antarctic survey said there's not enough information to say whether the calving is an effect of climate change, though there's good evidence global warming has caused thinning of the ice shelf. "We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that that rest of the shelf is becoming unstable".


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