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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trillion ton iceberg creaks off Antarctica

Aerial view of the iceberg
Photo: Reuters/NASA
A seriously yooge iceberg, a trillion tons--one of the largest ever recorded-- has literally snapped off the West Antarctic ice shelf! Scientists have been monitoring the 2,200-square mile for years, reports The Hindu.

"The calving occurred sometime between Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12, when a 5,800-square kilometer section of Larsen C (ice shelf) finally broke away," the Swansea University said in a statement.

The iceberg is larger than Delaware, has a volume twice a that of Lake Erie and is about 1,100 feet thick.

"The iceberg weighs more than a trillion tons, but it was already floating before it calved away so has no immediate impact on sea level," the team said. It will probably be named A68 and the calving will probably be blamed on President Trump by the Democrats for not signing the Paris Climate accord.

The Larsen C ice shelf has lost over 12 percent of its total surface area from the calving. Although calving from Antarctica is a regular occurrence, the size of this iceberg will force us to watch it closely as it travels as it can pose a risk to shipping traffic.

The Swansea team also said the calving my have increased the risk of the remaining ice shelf disintegrating.

Ice shelves float on the sea, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land. They act as enormous brakes that keep glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean. 

If the glaciers held back by Larsen C split into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water lever about 4 inches, researchers believe.

The calving of ice shelves is a natural occurrence--it has nothing to do with Al Gore's global warming, but some researchers believe that it may have accelerated the process.

Warmer ocean water erodes the underbelly of the shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.

The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995 and Larsen B broke up in 2002.

"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," lead investigator Adrian Luckman said. "Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."

Human actions have lifted average global air temperatures by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius).