Huge iceberg breaks off of Antarctica

The iceberg would barely fit inside Wales.     Adrian Luckman  MIDAS Author provided

An iceberg that has just broken off from Antarctica is so massive that it has been described as being the size of DE, or twice the size of the European country Luxembourg.

One of the world's largest icebergs has finally broken off from an ice shelf in western Antarctica.

Now while in and of itself the creation of a giant iceberg like this is perfectly normal behaviour in Antarctica, scientists are concerned about how it will alter a landscape that is also being dramatically changed by climate change.

If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10cm, researchers have said.

"The largest iceberg recorded in the modern era is known as B-15, a huge chunk of the Ross Ice Shelf that broke off in 2000, measuring about 11,000 square kilometers (4,200 square miles)". They are called ice shelfs because they act as barriers that keep the land-based ice from flowing into the sea and thus drastically increasing sea levels.

The iceberg, which is roughly the size of the U.S. state of DE or the Indonesian island of Bali, has been close to breaking off for a few months.

Scientists believe that the fault is likely triggered by climate change.

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An iceberg the size of DE split from Antarctica sometime in the last two days, capping weeks of speculation as to when the shelf would break loose. However, it doesn't mean the ice sheet break off will have an immediate impact on anyone: Scientists said the iceberg won't change the sea level because Larsen C was already floating previous the carving. The volume of this iceberg is twice that of Lake Erie - in fact, it's one of the 10 biggest icebergs on record.

As it widened, there was more pressure, the to-be iceberg dragging at the main ice shelf to break away.

They announced Wednesday on their Project MIDAS blog that it appears the iceberg calved sometime between July 10 and 12. It will be interesting to see if Larsen C follows suit.

"This puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position", said Dr. Martin O'Leary, a member of the MIDAS project team.

"We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable", he added.

Two other Antarctic ice shelves, farther north on the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002.

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