A vast iceberg with twice the volume of Lake Erie and the size of Delaware has broken off from a key ice shelf in Antarctica, scientists said Wednesday July 12, 2017.
Weighing more than one trillion tons, the iceberg broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said. The break, which covered a 5,800-square-kilometer (2,240 square mile) section had been forming for several months and been closely monitored by scientists for years. It broke away (calved) in the last few days.
“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,” said Adrian Luckman of Swansea University. “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.”
NASA and European Space Agency satellites have been monitoring the shelf and shared dramatic pictures of the break that has captured the world’s attention.
Despite scientists being cautious in labeling the event “man-made”, warming ocean temperatures are definitely contributing factor and researchers say that the “the collapse of several major glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea is now unstoppable”.
The break “puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position”, exposing the ice to more rapid decline and melting. Although the ice shelves are floating and don’t raise sea level themselves when they melt, several researchers told The National Geographic, they do signal that a rise “is imminent, as the glaciers behind them accelerate”.
This particular iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded. Researchers say that it will likely break into fragments over the coming years.