Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

World’s Largest Iceberg Headed for Open Water

Oceans
The western edge of iceberg A68 as seen during an Operation IceBridge flight on Nov. 12, 2017. NASA / Nathan Kurtz

The world's largest iceberg, which broke free from Antarctica in 2017, is about to escape the boundaries of the continent's perennial sea ice and make its way into the open ocean, according to the BBC.


The massive iceberg, named A68, weighed up to a trillion tons, and measured 2,300 square miles, when it broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017. To put that in perspective, the iceberg is more than seven times the size of New York City, and it's larger than both Rhode Island and Delaware.

Experts say that it has lost very little of its size since breaking off the ice shelf, according to Yahoo News.

However, when it meets the harsh, choppy waters of the Southern Ocean it is expected to weaken and lose its integrity.

"With a thickness to length ratio akin to five sheets of A4, I am astonished that the ocean waves haven't already made ice cubes out of A68," said professor Adrian Luckman from Swansea University, UK, to the BBC. "If it survives for long as one piece when it moves beyond the edge of the sea-ice, I will be very surprised."

Two weeks ago, Luckman tweeted, "Not long before it breaks free of the pack ice."

After the iceberg broke off, it remained fairly close to land. However, this summer in Antarctica the iceberg has drifted much more rapidly than was expected. The iceberg has been drifting northward along the southernmost continent's eastern shore, meaning it is headed towards an area of the Atlantic Ocean dubbed "iceberg alley" by researchers, according to the BBC.

When the iceberg broke free, it reduced the size of the Larsen C ice shelf by 12 percent, according to Yahoo News.

At first, sea ice kept the iceberg hemmed in, said the European Space Agency. However, it reported that prevailing strong winds coming off the ice shelf gave the iceberg a push that allowed it to reach ocean waters that turned it clockwise so it could float away toward warmer waters, as Yahoo News reported.

Twenty years ago, an iceberg nearly twice the size of A68 broke off from the Rose ice shelf and drifted north towards Great Britain's South Georgia Islands, which are at 54 degrees south. That iceberg, called B15, is now less than one-fifth of its original size and it's halfway between the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia, according to the BBC.

Icebergs like A68 and B15 need constant monitoring since they pose risks to ships.

While researchers watch A68's movement, they are also keeping a close eye on two other icebergs poised to break free from the ice shelf. One, which is half the size of New York City, is riven with cracks and will likely crumble once it breaks free.

"I expect that the new iceberg will break into many pieces soon after it calves," said Luckman to the BBC.

The other, at roughly 600 square miles, is about twice the size of New York City. Its imminent breaking from the ice shelf forced Britain's Halley research station to move so it would not be in harm's way, as the BBC reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less