A huge iceberg, the size of Delaware, split from the Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica, NASA confirms. Scientists say it was expected for months.

The iceberg that has broken off the Larsen ice shelf, known as Larsen C,  is 2,500 square miles. It is one of the largest icebergs that were ever recorded.

The scientists from NASA explain that the phenomenon was expected, as the separation has occurred long after the original crack. The fissure first appeared a few years back, but slowly progressed. Over the past few months, researchers have closely monitored the extension of the crack over 120 miles and its effects.

On July 6, the iceberg was connected to the mother-shelf by only 2.8 miles of ice.

 

A huge iceberg, the size of Delaware broke from the Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica.
Photo: NASA

 

What are the effects of an iceberg the size of Delaware floating freely in the ocean?  It is a known fact that ice shelves, such as the Larsen C, act as barriers to rising sea levels.

In this case, Prof. Adrian Luckman, head of Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project investigating the effects of a warming climate in West Antarctica, explains there are two scenarios:

  • The iceberg regrows
  • The iceberg collapses

At this point it is impossible to predict which of the two variants will occur.

One of the most important things that Prof. Luckman mentions is that this was a natural process, with no data supporting it was caused by human-induced global warming. However, “this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position”, he adds. “We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

Since the iceberg was already floating at the time of the final crack that caused the release from the Larsen ice shelf, the sea level won’t suffer any changes.

The Larsen ice shelf is the fourth largest shelf in Antarctica, measuring 20,000 square miles. With the breaking of the iceberg, it has lost over 12 percent of its surface.

 

View of the iceberg from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite