European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed using satellite images that the world’s largest iceberg has broken off Antarctica. Named as A-67, the iceberg was 4320 square kilometres in size, which is half the size of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The finger-shaped iceberg broke off from the Ronne Ice shelf, a massive ice shelf that encompasses an area of more than 400,000 square kilometres located in the Weddell sea in Antarctica.
According to ESA, the iceberg was spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed with the US National Ice Center which keeps an eye on the global sea ice environments using satellite imagery. The images were captured by Copernicus Sentinel-1, one of the two ESA satellites that orbit the Earth’s poles.
Another iceberg A-74, sized 1270 square kilometres which is smaller than one-third of A-76, broke off the Brunt Ice shelf in Antarctica.“A76 and A74 are both just part of natural cycles on ice shelves that hadn’t calved anything big for decades,” said Laura Gerrish, a Global Information System and mapping specialist at British Antarctic Survey.
Another big iceberg calving event in #Antarctica! #A76 has calved from the Ronne Ice Shelf and is currently the biggest iceberg in the world, taking the record from neighbouring A23a. Quick image from @sentinel_hub showing #Sentinel1 imagery from today (14th). pic.twitter.com/tdbh9FGqc7— Laura Gerrish (@laura_gerrish) May 14, 2021
However, Geriish highlighted the importance of monitoring the frequency of such incidents in her reply to a question on Twitter.
Icebergs break off of their ice shelves when they are met with warm water. A broken iceberg does not directly impact sea levels because it already has been floating in the water. However, if it collides with a nearby island, it can cause significant damage. In 2017, an iceberg A-68A came dangerously close to colliding with South Georgia Island, a nurturing place for penguins and seals.
Climate scientists are monitoring the Antarctic glaciers and studying the processes of breaking icebergs and how they affect ocean life.
This break-off may not be caused by humans, but global warming is heating our oceans and accelerating the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets. According to a report by NASA published in January, the calving of icebergs has increased in Greenland because the ice sheet has been out of balance.