Meet the New 1 Trillion Ton Iceberg
NASA has caught a shot of one of the biggest icebergs in the world tearing itself off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. This calving happened sometime early this week and represents about 5,800 square km of ice. As an example of how big that is, the entire Auckland area could fit onto this ice shelf with room to spare. We might even have more space to continue the urban sprawl a bit longer.
This breakoff consists of a massive chunk of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, about 12% to be exact. The landscape, which is a monotonous stretch of white from one horizon to the other has been changed forever by the breakaway. It reminds us to not get attached to things made out of mostly water like ice shelves, water melons, and human beings. Because nothing is permanent, especially when Paris agreements are shunned by world leaders.
The breakaway was originally spotted by NASAs Aqua MODIS satellite instrument. The satellite can do thermal infrared at a resolution of 1km.
Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project, said:
“We 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. We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.
“The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.”
Larsen C may regrow in time, but it could potentially face the same fate is its neighbour, Larsen B which completely disintegrated in 2002 after a similar breakup. I know how you feel Larsen B, separations can be tough.
Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position.
My earlier comment about Paris agreements should be taken with a hint of salt Dr Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team, said of the recent calving:
“Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position. This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”