Science & Tech

A Massive Iceberg Just Broke Off of East Antarctica

Two images showing the iceberg that broke off of Antarctica. Image Credit: Twitter / Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The iceberg is around five times the size of Malta.

A truly gigantic Iceberg, with more than 1,600 square kilometers and containing 315 gigatons of ice has separated from the Amery ice shelf of East Antarctica. Ice shelves are floating ice that forms where the Antarctic ice sheet meets the ocean.

They do not directly affect the sea level because the ice shelves are already floating, like an ice cube in a glass of water. Grounded ice is the concern for sea-level rise.

“It is the molar compared to a baby tooth,” Professor Helen Fricker told BBC News. “I am excited to see this calving event after all these years. We knew it would happen eventually, but just to keep us all on our toes, it is not exactly where we expected it to be.”

No need for panic

Helen Fricker who is a glaciologist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and co-author of the finding, says that this type of event is not related to climate change: it occurs naturally and happens every 60-70 years.

A satellite image showing the location where the Iceberg broke off of Antarctica. Image Credit: NASA.

A satellite image showing the location where the Iceberg broke off of Antarctica. Image Credit: NASA.

“This event is part of the normal ice shelf cycle and, although there is much to worry about in Antarctica, there is still no cause for alarm for this particular ice shelf,” Fricker said on the Twitter account of Scripps. Amery is the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica.

The iceberg came from the western part of a system of cracks in the front of the ice shelf.

The rift system was the boundary of a large piece of ice that had been dubbed the “Loose Tooth” since 2002 because it has appeared to be precariously attached for some time. This calving happened to its west and the “Loose Tooth” remains wiggly.

Scientists have designated the new massive block of ice as “D-28”. Satellite images will continue to monitor the new iceberg because it could become a danger for shipping. Ships that will cross along the iceberg’s path will have to look out.

Fricker says that this calving event underlines the importance of long-term observations in Antarctica in order to understand the natural cycle of ice sheets so that scientists can better unravel the climate-induced events of the natural background cycle.

A one trillion ton iceberg broke off from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017.

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