Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Giant Iceberg Could Impact One of the World's Busiest Shipping Lanes

A trillion-ton iceberg a quarter of the size of Wales just broke off Antarctica Antarctic iceberg quarter the size of Wales splits from ice shelf
Clarence Schmidt | 13 July, 2017, 01:53

The iceberg weighs an estimated 1.12 trillion tons and is approximately the size of Delaware.

The new iceberg is half as big as the record-holding iceberg B-15, which split from the Ross ice shelf in 2000, but it is considered to be among the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.

The researchers' team from the Swansea University-led Midas project note that an iceberg got its personal name - A68, the huge mass of ice broke away at some time between Monday and Wednesday.

Scientists from the United Kingdom -based Antarctic project, MIDAS, have been monitoring the rift in Larsen C for years, following earlier research on the collapse of the Larsen A shelf in 1995 and the breakup of the Larsen B shelf in 2002.

"Ice shelves float, so they do not directly contribute to sea level rise", read a report on the NASA Earth Observatory website.

Swansea University's Professor Adrian Luckman, the lead researcher behind the longstanding UK-based Antarctic Project MIDAS research, explained in a statement that his team has been monitoring significant ice shelf changes over the past year.

"Larsen C itself might be a result of climate change, but in other ice shelves, we see cracks forming, which we don't believe have any connection to climate change", he added.

The 2,200-square-mile block is about the size of DE (or twice the size of Luxembourg) and contains a volume of ice twice the size of Lake Erie.

Experts will continue to monitor the iceberg, as winds and currents could move it northward, eventually putting it in the way of shipping routes, the BBC reported. Scientists from the Midas Project have been tracking its progress for the past 12 months as it slowly began to crack until it finally broke off of the Larcen C ice shelf, Antarctica's fourth largest ice shelf. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments.

A map of Larsen C overlaid with NASA's MODIS thermal image from today.

However, ice shelves can help hold back the flow of the glaciers on land behind them, as they're often in contact with the sides of bays or against high spots on the seafloor. For starters, although it's possible for warmer polar temperatures, both in the air above the ice shelf and in the water underneath it, to have sped up the process, icebergs do naturally break off from Antarctica in a process known as calving.

Glaciologist Martin O'Leary with Project MIDAS, a research group focused on studying the climate's impact on Larsen C, agreed that this is a natural event and said researchers aren't aware of any link to human-induced climate change.

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