Massive Iceberg Breaks From Antarctic Ice Shelf: Scientists

Iceberg of the doubled sized Luxembourg breaks off the ice shelf of Antarctica

The Larsen C ice shelf is now 10 percent smaller as result of the split, an event that scientists said has altered the shape of the Antarctic peninsula.

The iceberg, which will likely be named A68, is one trillion metric tons and about 5,800 square kilometers, or about 2,200 square miles.

"The calving occurred sometime between Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12", the Swansea University said in a statement. The iceberg is described as weighing 1 trillion tons (1.12 trillion US tons). Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. Researchers believe that there is a risk that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is hard to predict", Luckman said.

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

It broke loose from the Larsen C ice shelf, which scientists had been monitoring for months as they watched a crack grow more than 120 miles (200 kilometers) long.

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The British Antarctic Survey contends that man-driven changes in the world's climate is causing the rapid thinning of most of the polar ice.

If this is the case, it may be easier for more ice from the Larsen C shelf to break away, which make make any land ice flow into the ocean more quickly. The glaciers behind the Larsen C Ice Shelf are not almost as large as those elsewhere around Antarctica, but it's possible (though not certain) that their shrinkage could eventually speed up because of this loss from the ice shelf.

This week's calving was detected in data from thermal infrared cameras on Nasa's Aqua MODIS satellite and confirmed by NASA's Suomi VIIRS instrument.

On Wednesday, a US satellite observed that an existing crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf appears to have broken through.

The new iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded.

Warmer temperatures also led to an earlier iceberg season in Newfoundland's Iceberg Alley this year, as Greenland's ice sheets melted quicker. "We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable", adds Dr Martin O'Leary, a glaciologist at Swansea University and member of the MIDAS project team.

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