Trillion-Ton Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica

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By Jeanna Bryner

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded, packing about a trillion tons of ice or enough to fill up two Lake Eries, has just split off from Antarctica, in a much anticipated, though not celebrated, calving event.

A section of the Larsen C ice shelf with an area of 2,240 square miles (5,800 square kilometers) finally broke away some time between July 10 and today (July 12), scientists with the U.K.-based MIDAS Project, an Antarctic research group, reported today.

Scientists discovered the birth of this iceberg in data collected by an instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, called MODIS, which takes thermal infrared images.

The iceberg was expected, though scientists didn’t know when the crack in the ice sheet would finally release the floating chunk. The rift in the Larsen C ice shelf — the fourth-largest shelf in Antarctica — first showed itself in 2014, but it wasn’t until November 2016 that satellite measurements revealed it had grown to more than 300 feet (91 m) in width and 70 miles (112 km) in length. 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.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. As the ice is melting from the bottom-up, as warmer seawater reaches further under it, the very melting of these huge blocks of ices raises the sea level and causes the remaining ice to float up, letting more warmed seawater flow under it to previously inaccessible areas!

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