One of the Largest Icebergs in History Just Split from Antarctica

The Larsen C crack seen from the air

The Larsen C crack seen from the air

The iceberg's calving-a term used to describe when ice chunks break from the edge of a glacier-was expected, as scientists had been tracking a fissure in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica for months. In other words, its bid for freedom wasn't unexpected.

On Wednesday morning, July 12, a massive iceberg was finally confirmed to have broken off after scientists looked at the area's latest satellite data.

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has just broken off from Antarctica.

But the fate of Larsen C is uncertain. Without them, the glaciers would flow directly into the ocean.

But if new cracks start forming in the Larsen C ice shelf, for example, that might suggest global warming is triggering bigger structural changes to this corner of Antarctica, Scambos explained.

The two nearby, smaller shelves, Larsen A and Larsen B, disintegrated around the turn of the century; and a warming climate very probably had a role in their demise.

"Most glaciologists are not particularly alarmed by what's going on at Larsen C, yet". That means you would need about 21 million Titanic ships to make up the mass weight of this newly free iceberg. The loss of ice in the form of icebergs usually balances the gain in ice from glaciers.

The volume of water contained in the iceberg is of little concern to scientists. But this is not something to worry about. Adrian Luckman, a professor of glaciology at Swansea University and head of the Midas Project, said that there is a chance that the Larcen C ice shelf will continue to shed, or it could actually regrow.

NASA Aqua satellite imagery confirming the separation
NASA Aqua satellite imagery confirming the separation

In the same eye-opening update on the Project MIDAS website, Dr. Martin O'Leary, a glaciologist, clarified that they're "not aware of any link to human-induced climate change".

The Larsen C ice shelf has now been reduced in sized by a record 10 percent.

What might happen next?

"The remaining shelf will be at its smallest ever known size", Luckman added. The neighboring Larsen B ice shelf fell apart in 2002 after it calved a major iceberg in 1995.

The change is large enough that it will trigger a redrawing of the Antarctic coastline, according to Ted Scambos, senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

One thing it will affect, however, is maps of the continent. As Common Dreams reported, 350.org has called on the U.S. National Ice Center to "name the Larsen C iceberg #ExxonKnew".

The British Antarctic Survey contends that man-driven changes in the world's climate is causing the rapid thinning of most of the polar ice. With rising global temperatures and an unstable ecosystem, the MIDAS project believes any regrowth will potentially be less stable than it was prior to the rift.

Latest News