See the New Trillion-Ton Antarctic Iceberg in Image from Space


Some of this ice melts where it comes in contact with the ocean, and some of it breaks off as large icebergs every few decades.

The removal of this iceberg from the ice shelf reduces its entire size by a significant 12%.

It's finally adrift. When the Larsen C Ice Shelf calved yesterday, it sent one of the largest icebergs ever recorded slipping into a sea frosted with smaller chunks of ice.

Antarctica is a climate stabilising factor, and the importance of the marine West Antarctic ice sheet was highlighted by USA scientists over four decades ago. "Something could happen with respect to the Paris accords", he announced at the Elysee Palace. The iceberg is half as big as the B-15, which holds the record after it split off from the Ross ice shelf in 2000. According to the researchers who for years have studied the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, the rift was nearly certainly not caused by climate change. It may remain in the area for decades, but if it breaks up, parts may drift north into warmer waters.

Whether or not the iceberg formed due to climate change, experts do not believe the calving of icebergs in the region contributes meaningfully to sea-level rise.

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"There have been some this big before", says Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University in the United Kingdom who leads a project to track changes in the ice shelf. Exactly where this break will go on Larsen C, and how it will affect the probability of additional breaks behind it, fall into the category of predicting one break. While climate change is affecting Antarctica in a variety of ways, this week's event does not signal that the region is entering a new state.

Scientists say global warming has caused a thinning of such shelves, but they differ on whether the latest event can be blamed on climate change. The water is warmer than the surrounding ice and air, which are both sub-zero. The Larsen C ice shelf has now retreated farther back than at any time in recorded history, according to Project MIDAS glaciologist Martin O'Leary of Swansea University; the loss of the iceberg could make the shelf vulnerable to collapse.

Monitored by scientists of Project MIDAS as the rift began to develop, the iceberg was calved from Larsen C between July 10 and July 12. "Will the ice shelf weaken?"

Who better to comment on the Delaware-sized iceberg that broke off from Antarctica than an oceanography professor from the University of Delaware? Will the glaciers behind the ice shelf accelerate and have a direct contribution to sea level rise? 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. Other recent research has shown that even stable parts of East Antarctica, which tends to be colder, have experienced surface melt events and weird lakes forming inside ice shelves.