Trillion Tonne Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctic Ice Shelf

An iceberg around four times the size of London has broken off from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.

With an estimated area of around 5,800 square km and a weight of more than a trillion tonnes this is easily one of the 10 largest iceberg’s ever recorded.

Scientists had been monitoring the vast crack in the Larsen C ice shelf for almost a decade so the news that it had finally created an iceberg was not shocking.

The news of the iceberg’s creation was confirmed by a NASA satellite on Wednesday while the full confirmation came from the Project MIDAS team who have been monitoring the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf.

Now while in and of itself the creation of a giant iceberg like this is perfectly normal behaviour in Antarctica, scientists are concerned about how it will alter a landscape that is also being dramatically changed by climate change.

Dr Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team, said:

“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. 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.” 

One major concern that the researchers from Swansea University have is whether or not this huge carving will result in the complete collapse of the ice shelf.

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The team have already recorded two previous examples of an ice shelf completely collapsing in Antarctica with Larsen A disappearing 1995 and then the sudden disintegration of Larsen B in 2002.

The removal of this iceberg from the ice shelf reduces its entire size by a significant 12%.

So what will happen to this new gentle giant? Well like all giant icebergs it won’t be going anywhere fast.

Instead it could break up as it heads north, with some pieces lasting for decades to come. One thing we do know for sure is that it is not expected to adjust the sea level as the berg was floating independent of Larsen long before it broke free.

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