Antarctica Just Lost a 347 Billion Ton Iceberg, but This Time the Climate Crisis Is Not to Blame
A 315 billion tonne (approximately 347 billion U.S. ton) iceberg has broken off of Antarctica's third largest ice shelf, BBC News reported Monday. It is the biggest berg to calve from the Amery Ice Shelf in more than 50 years.
The iceberg is 1,636 square kilometers (approximately 632 square miles), roughly the size of Scoltand's Isle of Skye and slightly larger than the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu. It is so large that it will have to be carefully observed because it could pose a risk to shipping. But scientists were quick to reassure the public that it was part of the ice shelf's normal calving cycle, and not a sign of the climate crisis.
"While there is much to be concerned about in Antarctica, there is no cause for alarm yet for this particular ice shelf," professor Helen Fricker from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told BBC News.
A 1600 km² iceberg broke off Amery Ice Shelf, as seen in @CopernicusEU Sentinel-1 radar images. This part, coined the "Loose Tooth" by @helenafricker and colleagues, has been hanging by a thread since 2002 (https://t.co/IUhXDCWOFF) and finally gave way last week.@sentinel_hub pic.twitter.com/GG60Sk52GB— Bert Wouters (@bert_polar) September 30, 2019
The calving was caught on U.S. and European satellites between Sept. 24 and 25, AFP News reported.
Scientists had long been expecting a piece of the Amery Ice Shelf — known as "Loose Tooth" because of its resemblance to a child's tooth — to break away, according to BBC News. Fricker predicted in 2002 that it would calve between 2010 and 2015.
She was off, slightly, both about when and where the iceberg would detach. Instead of finally losing its tooth, the ice shelf lost a larger piece of ice slightly to the west, which scientists are calling D28.
"It is like expecting a baby tooth to come out, and instead out comes a molar," Fricker tweeted.
Everyone loves a big berg. Amery finally calves the expected whopper, but it's not the famous "Loose Tooth" segment. D28 is "the molar compared to a baby tooth" says @helenafricker https://t.co/c2LAsWXtsa Thanks @CopernicusEU & @StefLhermitte. We❤️Sentinel-1 pic.twitter.com/JRv0Dvd06t— Jonathan Amos (@BBCAmos) September 30, 2019
The Amery Ice Shelf is located in East Antarctica and tends to calve every 60 to 70 years, Fricker told The Guardian. It last released a major iceberg in 1963-64.
East Antarctica is so far less affected by the climate crisis than fast-melting West Antarctica or Greenland, AFP noted. However, a Dec. 2018 study found that glaciers covering an eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast had lost ice in the last ten years.
Fricker told Scripps that it is important to make long-term observations of normal ice shelf behavior in order to determine what is caused by global heating and what is not.
Amery Ice Shelf is the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica. The iceberg came from the western part of a rift system at the front of the ice shelf. pic.twitter.com/SUqSPfLC69— Scripps Institution of Oceanography (@Scripps_Ocean) October 1, 2019
"The calving will not directly affect sea level, because the ice shelf was already floating, much like an ice cube in a glass of water," he told The Guardian.
However, he did hypothesize its loss could contribute to future ice melt."[W]hat will be interesting to see is how the loss of this ice will influence the ocean melting under the remaining ice shelf and the speed at which the ice flows off the continent," he said.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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