One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has been created after breaking free from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. The 1 trillion metric ton mass of ice calved sometime between July 10-12 2017 and is now adrift off the coast.
The resulting iceberg is the third largest such structure in history. It is around 5,800 sq km in size, making it twice the size of Luxembourg and close to four times larger than the Greater London area .
The calving comes one week after Project Midas, a group of scientists from Welsh universities in Swansea and Aberystwyth who were studying the shelf using satellites, reported the separation of the soon to be iceberg was imminent. The iceberg is slated to be named A68.The crack in Larsen C, which has created the massive iceberg, has been visible on the continent since the 1980s. It began breaking free by January 2017, as described in a series of tweets by Project Midas and the European Space Agency.
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project, said in a Project Midas blog post. “We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg,” Luckman said.
Larsen C is now 12 percent smaller than it was 2 days ago. Although, the ice shelf will continue to regenerate, there’s fear among scientists it’s less stable now than pre calving. Larsen C may follow in the footsteps of its predecessor Larsen B, which disintegrated into the ocean in 2002 after calving in 1995.
“In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse. Opinions from the scientific community remain divided. Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away,” added Luckman.
There is no scientific concenus global warming is the cause of calving which lead to the break off.
Satellite image of the inital break off.
For more information, check out the videos below:
Below is a video of the actual break up, courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey