One Trillion-Ton Iceberg Breaks Off Larsen C Ice Shelf

One Trillion-Ton Iceberg Breaks Off Larsen C Ice Shelf

The more than 1 trillion metric ton mass of ice calved sometime between July 10-12 and is now adrift off the coast.

Scientists believe the iceberg - likely to be named A68 - has a volume twice that of Lake Erie in North America and is more than three times the size of the greater London area.

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.

In a rather alarming development, one of the largest icebergs ever recorded has broken off an ice shelf in Antarctica. "Icebergs are calving all the time in Antarctica, and really that forms part of the natural life cycle of any ice shelf", Hogg says. If the entire ice shelf breaks apart, that grounded ice could flow into the ocean, changing sea levels, Hogg says.

Since breaking off, the Antarctic peninsula, the most northern part of the continent, is now changed in shape, scientists said.

Scientists said the latest iceberg break won't affect sea levels in the short term.

The researchers observed the breakthrough from data from NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite instrument, which images in the thermal infrared at a resolution of one km and was confirmed by NASA's Suomi VIIRS instrument.

"There have been some this big before", says Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University in the United Kingdom who leads a project to track changes in the ice shelf.

"We will study the ice shelf for signs that it is reacting to the calving - but we do not expect anything much to happen for perhaps years". Also, the ice shelf serves as a barrier to the land-based glacier that feeds the ice shelf; as that barrier diminishes, there's more of a chance for the ice behind it to collapse into the sea, MIDAS researchers said.

One of the biggest icebergs on record has broken away from Antarctica - and it could have devastating consequences.

An aerial photo released by NASA shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf on November 10.

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. Professor Adrian Luckman, lead investigator of Project MIDAS, which has been closely monitoring the situation, stated last month: "If it doesn't go in the next few months, I'll be amazed".



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