A GIANT slab of ice bigger than Majorca has sheared off from the frozen edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea.
The calving makes the frozen lump the largest iceberg afloat in the world, the European Space Agency said on Wednesday.
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The newly calved A-76 iceberg is larger than the Spanish island of Majorca[/caption]
The new berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission.
Its surface area spans 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles) and measures 175 km (106 miles) long by 25 km (15 miles) wide.
By comparison, Spain’s tourist island of Majorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640 square km (1,405 square miles).
The U.S. state of Rhode Island is smaller still, with a land mass of just 2,678 square km (1,034 square miles).
Ice shelves are floating sheets of ice permanently attached to a land mass. Pieces of ice that break off are called icebergs. Pictured is Antarctica’s George VI Ice Shelf[/caption]
The enormity of A-76, which broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, ranks as the largest existing iceberg on the planet.
It surpasses the now second-place A-23A, about 3,380 square km (1,305 square miles) in size and also floating in the Weddell Sea.
Another massive Antarctic iceberg that had threatened a penguin-populated island off the southern tip of South America has since lost much of its mass and broken into pieces, scientists said earlier this year.
A-76 was first detected by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed by the Maryland-based U.S. National Ice Center using imagery from Copernicus Sentinel-1, consisting of two polar-orbiting satellites.
What is an iceberg?
Here's what you need to know
- An iceberg is a large chunk of freshwater ice
- It has typically broken off from a glacier or an ice shelf
- The name is a translation from the Dutch ‘ijsberg’, which means ice mountain
- Icebergs are found floating freely in open salt-water
- Around 90 per cent of a berg is below the surface, and therefore not visible
- That’s why they’re considered to be a major shipping hazard
- The most famous berg-at-sea incident was the 1912 loss of the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic, which capsized after hitting one
- The largest iceberg ever recorded is Iceberg A-76, which was calved from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf in May 2021
- It spans 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles) and measures 175 km (106 miles) long by 25 km (15 miles) wide
- By comparison, the Spanish island of Majorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640 square km (1,405 square miles)
- The U.S. state of Rhode Island is smaller still, with a land mass of just 2,678 square km (1,034 square miles)
The Ronne Ice Shelf near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the largest of several enormous floating sheets of ice that connect to the continent’s landmass and extend out into surrounding seas.
Periodic calving of large chunks of those shelves is part of a natural cycle.
The breaking off of A-76, which is likely to split into two or three pieces soon, is not linked to climate change, said Ted Scambos, a research glaciologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Map of Antarctica showing the location (purple dot) of the Ronne ice shelf[/caption]
Scambos said the Ronne and another vast ice shelf, the Ross, have “behaved in a stable, quasi-periodic fashion” over the past century or more.
Because the ice was already floating in the sea before dislodging from the coast, its break-away does not raise ocean levels, he told Reuters.
Some ice shelves along the Antarctic peninsula, farther from the South Pole, have undergone rapid disintegration in recent years.
Scientists believe the phenomenon scientists may be related to global warming, according to the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center.
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