This is a Feb. 2017 image of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica made available by the Antarctic Survey on Wednesday July 12, 2017. A vast iceberg with twice the volume of Lake Erie has broken off from a key floating ice shelf in Antarctica, scientists said Wednesday. The iceberg broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf, scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said. The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, is described as weighing 1 trillion tons (1.12 trillion U.S. tons). (British Antarctic Survey via AP)
(CN) â€“ An iceberg nearly the size of Delaware has broken off from a key ice shelf in Antarctica â€“ permanently changing the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists said Wednesday.
The 1.12-trillion-ton iceberg â€“ twice the volume of Lake Erie â€“ broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf sometime between Monday and Wednesday, scientists at the University of Swansea in the United Kingdom said.
Larsen C lost about 12 percent of its area once the iceberg broke off, an event known as â€œcalving.â€� At 2,240 square miles, the iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded according to scientists with MIDAS, a U.K.-based Antarctic project that has been focused on the ice shelf for years.
â€œWe 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,â€� said Adrian Luckman, a Swansea professor and lead investigator at MIDAS. â€œWe will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C ice shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.â€�
While the iceberg is not expected to raise sea levels, it does leave Larsen C far less stable. Ice shelves act like buttresses for the Antarctic ice sheet â€“ keeping away warmer water and stifling the movement of glaciers into the sea â€“ which make them critical factors in possible sea level rise.
â€œThis is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded historyâ€� Swansea glaciologist Martin Oâ€™Leary, a member of the MIDAS project team, said. â€œWeâ€™re going to be watching very carefully for signs the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.â€�
Prior to monitoring the rift in Larsen C, MIDAS researchers studied the collapse of the Larsen A in 1995 and the breakup of Larsen B in 2002, the underlying cause of which was climate change.
However, after reviewing data and images of the new calving event, the team is â€œnot aware of any link to human-induced climate change,â€� according to Oâ€™Leary.
As scientists attempt to forecast Larsen Câ€™s future, the fate of the newly free iceberg is also unclear.
â€œWe will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C ice shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg,â€� Luckman said.
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