Quantcast
Popular

Massive Iceberg Finally Breaks Off: Antarctic Landscape 'Changed Forever'

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has "finally" broken away from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, researchers studying the event announced.

The iceberg, which will likely be dubbed A68, weighs more than a trillion tonnes, has a volume twice that of Lake Erie, and is about 5,800 square kilometers in size—roughly the size of Delaware.


According to Project MIDAS, the UK-based Antarctic researchers observing the ice shelf, the calving occurred sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

The landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula has been "changed forever," the researchers said. The calving leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12 percent, its smallest size ever recorded.

The widening crack had been developing over the past year. Project MIDAS said last week that the massive iceberg was hanging onto the main shelf by just a 3-mile thread. "Multiple rift tips" had also formed, meaning a number of smaller icebergs could also splinter off.

"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. 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," Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University and lead investigator of the project said.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters," Luckman added.

The new configuration of Larsen C could potentially make it less stable. There's a chance it could follow the example of its neighbor, Larsen B, which rapidly broke apart in 2002 after a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995, the researchers said.

"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse—opinions in the scientific community are divided. Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away," Luckman said.

The iceberg will have no immediate impact on sea level since it was already floating before it calved. However, as these ice shelves disintegrate, the land-locked glaciers they hold back may begin sliding into the sea.

"Although this is a natural event, and we're not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position," explained Dr. Martin O'Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Glyphosate applied to a North Yorkshire field. Chafer Machinery / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

EU Approval of Glyphosate Based on Review That Plagiarized Monsanto Studies

The European Union's license extension of the world's most popular weedkiller, glyphosate, was based on a review that heavily plagiarized industry studies, according to a report (pdf) commissioned by European parliamentarians (MEPs).

The new analysis released Tuesday compares whether a risk assessment of the controversial herbicide was actually authored by scientists representing Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) or by the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), an industry group that includes Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate-based Roundup, in its ranks.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Rising temperatures and more frequent wildfires in Alaskan national parks could affect caribou's habitat and winter food sources. Zak Richter / NPS

To Preserve National Parks in a Warming World, Reconnect Fragmented Public Lands

By Stephen Nash

The Trump administration's decision to keep many U.S. national parks open during the current federal government shutdown, with few or no staff, spotlights how popular and how vulnerable these unique places are.

Some states, such as Utah and Arizona, have spent heavily to keep parks open rather than lose tourist revenues. Unfortunately, without rangers to enforce rules, some visitors have strewn garbage and vandalized scenic areas.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Emma Bray of Denver, a plaintiff on the youth-led climate lawsuit, Martinez v. COGCC. @youthvgov / Twitter

Colorado's Top Court Sides Against Youth in Major Anti-Fracking Case

Colorado's oil and gas industry breathed a sigh of relief on Monday after the state's highest court overturned a lower court decision that said state regulators must consider public health and the environment in permitting oil and gas production.

The unanimous ruling was a disappointment for the teenage plaintiffs, including high-profile climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who led the closely watched lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The possible site of Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical's ethane cracker plant along the Ohio River, as seen from Moundsville, West Virginia. Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Taking on Climate Change and Petrochemicals in the Ohio River Valley

When it comes to the fossil fuel industry, we've all heard the promises before: new jobs, economic growth and happier communities, all thanks to their generosity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion

A Call for the Food Movement to Rally Behind the Green New Deal

By Ronnie Cummins

"The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan … Half measures will not work … The time for slow and incremental efforts has long past [sic]." - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then-candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Huffington Post, June 26, 2018

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Bob Adams / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Seismic Blasting Approved in the Great Australian Bight, Posing 'Lethal Threat' to Marine Life

Australia's petroleum regulator granted permission for seismic blasting in the Great Australian Bight, sparking fierce outcry from environmentalists over its threat to the area's marine life, whihc include endangered blue and southern right whales.

On Monday, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) gave the green light to oil and gas exploration services company PGS Australia's application for seismic surveys off the coast of South Australia's Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Frank Giustra

This Everest Greenhouse Is One of the Highest Gardens in the World

By Frank Giustra

Food has never been the main attraction—or even a side attraction—of my trekking adventures. Instead, it has primarily been an inconvenient necessity, largely consisting of rice, beans and other forms of sustenance. Without fresh vegetables, herbs and garlic, it all starts to taste the same after a day or two.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Madeleine_Steinbach / iStock / Getty Images

11 Surprising Benefits and Uses of Myrrh Oil

By Marsha McCulloch, MS, RD

You may be familiar with myrrh from Biblical stories even if you're not sure what it is.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!