An iceberg the size of Delaware has broken off from Antarctica

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Blaming climate change isn’t so easy.

By Brian Resnick

The world has a new iceberg that’s so massive in size that maps of Antarctica will soon have to be redrawn.

The trillion-ton piece of ice just broke off from the Larsen-C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula. It totals about 2,240 square miles — about the size of the state of Delaware — and its volume, 40 trillion cubic feet of ice, is twice that of Lake Erie, reports Project Midas, a UK-based science group dedicated to studying the ice shelf.

Scientists have been expecting this event for months, and say it wasn’t caused by climate change. Sea levels won’t rise from this new iceberg because the ice was already in the ocean. But it’s still worrying because of the long-term impact it could have on the rest of the shelf’s ice.

“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,” Martin O’Leary, a glaciologist on the Midas team, said in a statement. “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.”

Since at least 2010, a portion of the 19,000 square-mile Larsen-C has been tearing away from the shelf like a broken zipper. Over the past few years the crack has accelerated dramatically, spreading 33 feet per day to a distance topping 120 miles. On Friday, the European Space Agency reported there were just 3 miles left to go before detachment.

On Wednesday, the ESO confirmed the break with additional satellite imagery.

This is what the final satellite image of the break looks like.

An ice shelf forms when glaciers on land start to spread out over the sea. And they serve as a doorstop — keeping glacial ice on the continent from drifting out to sea. Eventually, pieces of the glacier flake off to form icebergs. This is a natural process. What’s different is the humongous size of this one — it’s about 12 percent of the total area of the Larsen-C. “The landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever,” Project Midas said in a blog post.

“We don’t think this is caused by climate change,” Christopher Shuman, a scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard, says in an interview. He explains that Larsen-C, at large, still maintains critical anchors to the sea floor bedrock. “If we had seen the Larsen-C lose connection with these grounding points … that would have been much stronger evidence the whole shelf is becoming destabilized.”…

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This article (An iceberg the size of Delaware has broken off from Antarctica) was originally published on Vox and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.


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