Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One of the Biggest Icebergs in Recorded History Just Broke Loose from Antarctica

Larsen ice shelf (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Scientists announced Wednesday that a much anticipated break at the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica has occurred, unleashing a massive iceberg that is more than 2,200 square miles in area and weighs a trillion tons.

In other words, the iceberg — among the largest in recorded history to splinter off the Antarctic continent — is close to the size of Delaware and consists of almost four times as much ice as the fast melting ice sheet of Greenland loses in a year. It is expected to be given the name “A68” soon, scientists said.

“Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes,” wrote researchers with Project MIDAS, a research group at Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities in Wales that has been monitoring the situation closely by satellite.

The break was detected by one NASA satellite instrument, MODIS on the Aqua satellite, and confirmed by a second, they said.  The European Space Agency has also confirmed the break.

The iceberg contains so much mass that if all of it were added anew to the ocean, it would drive almost 3 millimeters of global sea level rise.  In this case though, the ice was already afloat so there won’t be a substantial sea level change.

The Project MIDAS group said Wednesday that the effect of the break is to shrink the size of the floating Larsen C ice shelf by 12 percent.  While they can’t be certain, they’re concerned that this could have a destabilizing effect on the remainder of the shelf, which is among Antarctica’s largest.

Read more at One of the Biggest Icebergs in Recorded History Just Broke Loose from Antarctica

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