BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An iceberg the size of Delaware has split from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, according to NASA.
Scientists believe it happened sometime between July 10 and 12.
The breakage, which occurred on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, was first reported by Project Midas, an Antarctic research project based in the United Kingdom, but NASA says it has confirmed the split using two different satellites.
A crack had been growing on the ice shelf for decades.
“Now that the close to 2,240 square-mile chunk of ice has broken away, the Larsen C shelf area has shrunk by approximately 10 percent,” a NASA press release says.
“The interesting thing is what happens next, how the remaining ice shelf responds,” says Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland in College Park.
“Will the ice shelf weaken? Or possibly collapse, like its neighbors Larsen A and B? Will the glaciers behind the ice shelf accelerate and have a direct contribution to sea level rise? Or is this just a normal calving event?”
According to Dan McGrath, a glaciologist at Colorado State University who has been studying the Larsen C ice shelf since 2008, the growth of the Larsen C crack, given our current understanding, is not directly linked to climate change.
“The Antarctic Peninsula has been one of the fastest warming places on the planet throughout the latter half of the 20th century,” he says. “This warming has driven really profound environmental changes, including the collapse of Larsen A and B. But with the rift on Larsen C, we haven’t made a direct connection with the warming climate. Still, there are definitely mechanisms by which this rift could be linked to climate change, most notably through warmer ocean waters eating away at the base of the shelf.”
The U.S. National Ice Center will monitor the trajectory of the new iceberg. Currents around Antarctica generally dictate the path that the icebergs follow, according to NASA, and this one In is likely to follow a similar path to the icebergs produced by the collapse of Larsen B: north along the coast of the Peninsula, then northeast into the South Atlantic.
“It’s very unlikely it will cause any trouble for navigation,” according to Brunt.