A trillion-ton iceberg, one of the world’s biggest, has snapped off the West Antarctic ice shelf, said scientists Wednesday who have monitored the growing crack for months.
“The calving occurred sometime between Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12, when a 5,800-square kilometer section of Larsen C (ice shelf) finally broke away,” the Swansea University said in a statement.
“The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, weighs more than a trillion tons. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes.”
“The calving of this iceberg leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12 per cent, and the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever,” scientists said.
However the berg has not yet floated away from its position, which could be because it’s grounded on underwater hills or because of sea currents and winds.
The vast majority of the planet’s fresh water is locked up in the ice of Antarctica. As the ice sheets begin to melt, sea levels are set to rise.
But Adrian Luckman of Project Midas at Swansea University has said there will be no immediate sea level rise.
“The sea level rise contribution from this part of Antarctica is very small – centimeters over decades,” he said.
The iceberg has been close to breaking off for a few months. Throughout the Antarctic winter, scientists
monitored the progress of the rift in the ice shelf using the European Space Agency satellites.
“It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” Luckman said.
Icebergs break off Antarctica naturally, meaning scientists are not linking the rift to manmade climate change.
The ice, however, is a part of the Antarctic peninsula that has warmed fast in recent decades.