Quantcast

Antarctica Just Lost a 347 Billion Ton Iceberg, but This Time the Climate Crisis Is Not to Blame

Oceans
Iceberg D-28 calved from the Amery Ice Shelf last week. NASA Suomi NPP satellite

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.

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.

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.

Australian Antarctic Program glaciologist Ben Galton-Fenzi explained that the calving would not increase sea level rise.

"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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

In this view from an airplane rivers of meltwater carve into the Greenland ice sheet near Sermeq Avangnardleq glacier on Aug. 4 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Climate change is having a profound effect in Greenland, where over the last several decades summers have become longer and the rate that glaciers and the Greenland ice cap are retreating has accelerated. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

The rate that Greenland's ice sheet is melting surpassed scientists' expectations and has raised concerns that their worst-case scenario predictions are coming true, Business Insider reported.

Read More Show Less
An Alagoas curassow in captivity. Luís Fábio Silveira / Agência Alagoas / Mongabay

By Pedro Biondi

Extinct in its habitat for at least three decades, the Alagoas curassow (Pauxi mitu) is now back in the jungle and facing a test of survival, thanks to the joint efforts of more than a dozen institutions to pull this pheasant-like bird back from the brink.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Elizabeth Warren's Blue New Deal aims to expand offshore renewable energy projects, like the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

By Julia Conley

Sen. Elizabeth Warren expanded her vision for combating the climate crisis on Tuesday with the release of her Blue New Deal — a new component of the Green New Deal focusing on protecting and restoring the world's oceans after decades of pollution and industry-caused warming.

Read More Show Less
Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leaves the courthouse after testifying in the Exxon Mobil trial on Oct. 30, 2019 in New York. DON EMMERT / AFP via Getty Images

A judge in New York's Supreme Court sided with Exxon in a case that accused the fossil fuel giant of lying to investors about the true cost of the climate crisis. The judge did not absolve Exxon from its contribution to the climate crisis, but insisted that New York State failed to prove that the company intentionally defrauded investors, as NPR reported.

Read More Show Less

By Sharon Elber

You may have heard that giving a pet for Christmas is just a bad idea. Although many people believe this myth, according to the ASPCA, 86 percent of adopted pets given as gifts stay in their new homes. These success rates are actually slightly higher than average adoption/rehoming rates. So, if done well, giving an adopted pet as a Christmas gift can work out.

Read More Show Less