Giant Iceberg the Size of London Breaks Off from Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica
When in December last year, one of the largest icebergs, known as A68a, approached the South Atlantic Island as a single block of over 4,000 square kilometers, the experts feared it might destroy the local ecosystems. But then it began breaking into enormous pieces that have since floated around the island on counter-clockwise currents. With its disintegration, the world took a sigh of relief. But soon enough, the world turned its eyes to another giant iceberg that breaks off from the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
The new iceberg, which is almost the size of Greater London, has recently split off from the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, near a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) station. Large cracks were first discovered in the ice of this part of Antarctica a decade ago, and since then BAS has been monitoring the area for any fragmentation.
The iceberg broke off just over 20 kilometers from Britain’s Halley research station, but due to the absence of life around it, no one was hurt. This 1,270 square kilometers, 150-meter-thick piece of ice was separated on Friday. The BAS, which has been operating Halley in a reduced role since 2017 as there was a growing concern of an iceberg splitting, captured footage of large cracks at the Burnt Ice Shelf earlier in February.
Adrian Luckman, British glaciologist and professor of geology at Swansea University in Wales, has been examining images of the ice shelf in recent weeks and estimating when a large chunk of ice might break off from the glacier. He said,
Although the breaking off of large parts of Antarctic ice shelves is an entirely normal part of how they work, large calving events such as the one detected at the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday remain quite rare and exciting. With three long rifts actively developing on the Brunt Ice Shelf system over the last five years, we have all been anticipating that something spectacular was going to happen.
He further added that this incident might trigger more pieces to break off in the near future. According to him, such incidents are quite normal for this region, and for glaciologists like him, these calving events are exciting.
Be as it may, the recent increase in the calving of giant ice chunks from ice shelves has imperiled the surrounding ecosystems. The rising sea levels and increasing global temperatures may have been at play in such occurring in the recent past. While the A68a, shattered in pieces, is floating in the sea at the moment, what becomes of this recently broken iceberg will be an interesting affair to monitor.