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A 1 trillion-ton iceberg has broken off Antarctica, and scientists say it’s one of the largest ever recorded

A 1 trillion-ton iceberg has broken off Antarctica, and scientists say it’s one of the largest ever recorded thumbnail

A 300-foot-wide, 70-mile-long rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf, as seen in November 2016. John Sonntag/IceBridge/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

  • Antarctica has shed an iceberg that’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan.
  • It weighs about 1 trillion metric tonnes.
  • It may be the third-largest iceberg recorded since satellites began taking photos of Earth.
  • Human activity likely isn’t responsible for this event, but carbon emissions are driving other changes to Antarctic ice.

The image is a bit fuzzy, but to scientists it’s unmistakable: One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has broken free of Antarctica.

A crack in an Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf is responsible for calving the colossal new iceberg, which is roughly the area of Delaware state and the volume of Lake Michigan.

larsen c ice shelf antarctica iceberg july 12 2017 nasa modis satellite NASA Worldview/MODIS

Researchers noticed the distinctive rift in Antarctica’s ice in 2010, which has grown rapidly since 2016. The iceberg calved between July 10 and July 12, researchers said.

“Breaking news! The iceberg has fully detached from Larsen C – more details to follow soon,” Martin O’Leary a glaciologist at Swansea University, wrote in a tweet early Wednesday morning for Project MIDAS.

A NASA Earth-observing satellite called MODIS was among the first to photograph the colossal ice block freed of Antarctica’s grasp.

Based on the image above, and another created by Adrian Luckman, also a glaciologist at Swansea University and a MIDAS Project member, it appears the iceberg has largely stayed intact.

antarctia iceberg larsen c ice shelf project midas esa copernicus Map of Larsen C, overlaid with NASA MODIS thermal image from July 12 2017, showing the iceberg has calved. MIDAS Project/A. Luckman/Swansea University

This could make it the third-largest recorded since satellite measurements began, according to a July 6 tweet by The Antarctic Report.

In a July 12 blog post, Luckman and O’Leary said it is “one of the biggest ever recorded” at a weight of roughly 1 trillion metric tonnes, and said its name will likely be dubbed A68.

“The calving of this iceberg leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12%, and the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever,” they said.

How big the new iceberg is, and where it’s going

The ice block’s area is roughly comparable to the US state of Delaware or the nation of Wales. But CryoSat — Europe’s ice-monitoring satellite — recently took the most precise measurements to date of its thickness, allowing scientists to gauge its total volume.

Days before it broke free, Noel Gourmelen, a glaciologist at the University of Edinburgh, and his colleagues estimated the iceberg that is now drifting through the Southern Ocean would be about 620 feet (190 meters) thick and harbor some 277 cubic miles (1,155 cubic kilometers) of frozen water.

That’s big enough to fill more than 460 million Olympic-size swimming pools with ice, or nearly all of Lake Michigan — one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the world.

Gourmelen and the ESA on July 5 released this 3D animation that shows the iceberg’s dimensions:

And here’s Lake Michigan for a size comparison:

lake michigan google maps The volume of Lake Michigan and the iceberg that’s about to calve from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf are roughly comparable. Google Maps; Business Insider

Scientists previously said they aren’t sure what will happen when the iceberg breaks off, since such large calvings rarely seen.

“It could, in fact, even calve in pieces or break up shortly after. Whole or in pieces, ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands,” Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds, said said in a July 5 press release by the European Space Agency.

Those islands lie more than 1,000 miles away from Larsen C in Antarctica.

This illustration of hundreds of icebergs’ paths, from 1999 through 2010, shows how that drift might play out before it completely melts.


historical iceberg tracks scatterometer climate record pathfinder esa NASA Scatterometer Climate Record Pathfinder; ESA

An ice block thousands of years in the making

Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf is one of the largest such shelves in the southern continent.

larsen c ice shelf diagram antarctica Diti Torterat/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

According to a tweet from Project MIDAS, “most of the ice that calves off fell as snow on the ice shelf in the past few hundred years, but there’s an inner core that’s a bit older.”

Project MIDAS announced in early June that satellite images showed the rift had split, turned north, and begun moving toward the Southern Ocean.

Luckman, who has closely monitors the ice shelf with his colleagues at Project MIDAS, previously released an animation of the rift’s rapid growth (below).

It shows how the rift “jumped” as it sliced through bands of weak ice, and slowed when it met stronger, thicker ice. The ocean is shown in emerald green (top right), the Larsen C ice shelf is the light-blue patch, and the glacier behind it is depicted in white.

The final frame shows an image of the rift’s tip breaking in multiple directions — a sign of imminent calving of the iceberg.

A close-up from the ESA’s Copernicus satellite more clearly showed the chaos of the crack’s tip on July 6:

atarctica larsen c iceberg crack esa ESA; CPOM News/Twitter

Are humans behind this?

The iceberg won’t noticeably raise sea levels, since it was already floating in the ocean as part of Larsen C and displacing water. But Luckman and O’Leary previously said that once Larsen C loses its iceberg, the rest of the shelf “will be less stable than it was prior to the rift.”

Put another way: There’s a very slim chance that new iceberg could cause the entire Larsen C ice shelf, and an ancient glacier behind it, to slowly disintegrate and fall into the sea.

The chaos wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2002, a neighboring ice shelf called Larsen B collapsed and broke up in the Southern Ocean. This animation captures that event unfolding from January 31 through April 13, 2002:

If and when Larsen C and its accompanying glacial ice eventually collapse, some scientists think sea levels may rise by up to 4 inches.

However, experts on Antarctic ice say that such a loss is exceedingly unlikely and would mostly be due to natural processes.

“Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia — on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime,” Helen Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist who studies Antarctic ice for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wrote in The Guardian last month. “What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica.”

Buy Fricker warned that we shouldn’t be complacent about climate change, which is mostly being driven by human activity.

“Antarctic ice shelves overall are seeing accelerated thinning, and the ice sheet is losing mass in key sectors of Antarctica,” she said. “Continuing losses might soon lead to an irreversible decline.”

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24 Comments on "A 1 trillion-ton iceberg has broken off Antarctica, and scientists say it’s one of the largest ever recorded"

  1. penury on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 9:53 am 

    Does not sound like a problem, until the entire ice sheet it separated from is affected.

  2. Cloggie on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 9:59 am 

    Good news!

    Thank God, Antarctica finally lets go of a sugar cube of its ice.

    Imagine if it wouldn’t: the ice sheet Antarctica of Antarctica is actually growing, because the amount of ice that breaks of at the edges is still less than the precipitation on this vast continent. So, if you wait long enough the ice mountains would touch the skies from where the rain/snow/ice is developed… and the planet might get wobbly because of it.

    So every time a major ice sheet breaks of, it is a reason to open your best bottle of wine (not that we need a reason for that).

  3. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 1:07 pm 

    Clog, prove it asshole. Fucking game playing retard. How come when it a trump or deep state story you provide 9 Infowars links, but when it’s science related you make an assertion and most of the time provide none or some not even related Wikipedia (anyone can edit it) link or links in foreign/barbarian languages? You are a lying low down game playing deceiving weasel. You’re not even a real man. I may be an asshole, but I’m an honest asshole.

    Do you realize that you are the only regular around here still pushing AGW denial bullshit? Wonder what happened to the others? Why did they stop? Because I mopped the fucking floor with them and they got tired of being embarrassed by the overwhelming number of record breaking daily disaster I keep posting. I just opened the curtains so folks could see. No AL Gore. No environmental advocacy. No climate models. No graphs and charts of projections and predictions from scientists – just the ever growing consequences.

    The ice sheets act a like a cork. They hold back the land ice from rushing into the sea. Displacement method will make sea level rise like a big fat ass getting in a full bathtub and displacing the water on to the floor.

    Plenty of troubling changes happening in Antarctic.

    Fast-Growing Moss Is Turning Antarctica Green

    Rising temperatures have boosted the growth rates of seasonal moss on the southern continent over the last 50 years.

    “The driving force, they say, is warmer global temperatures—as Antarctica’s ice melts, more water is available to moisten the mosses, and the rising heat provides longer growing seasons for the plants. (Also see “Antarctica Is Covered With More Meltwater Than Thought.”)

    “Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region,” Matthew Amesbury, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Exeter in the U.K., said in a statement.”

    The latest threat to Antarctica: an insect and plant invasion

    Rise in tourism and warmer climate bring house flies – and the growth of mosses in which they can live

  4. Go Speed Racer on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 1:20 pm 

    I am the owner of the iceberg. I am willing to
    sell it to the highest bidder.

  5. Hubert on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 1:44 pm 

    There’s too much obsession with global warming. Once we run out of oil, none of this will make much of a difference.

  6. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 3:01 pm 

    There’s too much obsession with oil. Once we get too much global warming, none of the oil will make much of a difference.

    What good is oil to a destroyed civilization that is near the top of the mass extinction list?

    Fossil fuel cornacopians obsess over oil and many are hysterically alarmist about environmentalists who have been 100% ineffective at stopping even 1 fucking barrel from being extracted, refined and burned. Anyone online can look up the historical aggregate numbers on oil extraction and consumption. The numbers tell the tale and it’s a story of more. Further, there is no need for anyone to worry about any halt on oil extraction and use for any other reason than basic economic reasons. This planet is in runaway climate change. The humans are runaway reward seekers who will not stop until they exhaust every resource within their capabilities. This is not a choice. This is evolutionary programming and so is obsessing over threats real or perceived and so is trying to silence anyone pointing out said threats. It’s an attempt to protect their fragile psyche.

    ‘Pointing out the ever growing destruction from AGW makes me extremely uncomfortable and anxious, so everyone should stop talking about and pretend it’s not real’

    Tell yourself.

  7. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 3:18 pm 

    Hubert, do ya think these many thousands of people in Canada and the US who are fleeing for their lives from AGW jacked wildfires are being too obsessive about anthropocentric global warming consequences? Some will die, many more will be sickened and/or injured. Many will lose some or all of their property and business. You should drive through the disaster zones and tell them people to stop obsessing about global warming because some day the oil will run out……anyway.

    Massive Wildfires Burn From California to the Arctic Ocean as Temperature Records Shatter

    “Record heavy precipitation and cooler conditions across Western North America earlier this year have again given way to record warmth as a strong high pressure ridge and associated extreme Pacific and Arctic Ocean surface temperatures have ushered in blazing heat and multiplying wildfires.

    In California, massive wildfires have forced nearly 5,000 people to evacuate. In British Columbia, 14,000 have fled as more than 1,000 firefighters battle numerous large blazes. And along coastal Alaska and Canada’s Northwest Territory, large wildfires are burning near the shores of an, until recently frozen, Arctic Ocean.”

    “So far 2017 has seen 3,593,000 acres burned in the U.S. — which is above the 10 year average. An average that has already been pushed higher due to human-forced warming and an overall lengthening of the fire season.”

    “Further north, British Columbia is suffering a rash of severe fires as extreme heat and high winds are blasting away at vegetation that vigorously regrew when drought conditions retreated earlier this year. Now, 215 active fires are reported as the province mobilizes national military forces and considers making calls for international aid. Presently, 21 large fires are causing considerable havoc throughout BC. Fire officials remain on heightened alert as strong winds, heat, and lightning threaten to make a bad fire situation even worse over the coming days.

    Still further north and extending all the way to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, satellite photographs provided by NASA show large wildfires burning through typically frozen regions of Canada’s Northwest Territory and in northern Alaska. Many of these fires are quite vigorous — producing large smoke plumes that have blanked much of the region.”

  8. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 3:34 pm 

    Wildfires smoke blankets much of British Columbia, part of Alberta

    Harrowing video captures terrifying drive to escape B.C. wildfires

  9. Cloggie on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 4:10 pm 

    Clog-Master, could you please inform my humble self as to why though thinks that the Antarctic ice sheet is actually growing?

    But of course, TalmudTurd:

  10. twocats on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 5:53 pm 

    the antarctic has been one of the last remaining refuges for deniers (well, really only the East side). but even that 2015 study Clug just mentions… well… it’s now more of a maybe…

    I’m not saying he’s wrong, but this whole

    “So, if you wait long enough the ice mountains would touch the skies from where the rain/snow/ice is developed… and the planet might get wobbly because of it. So every time a major ice sheet breaks of, it is a reason to open your best bottle of wine (not that we need a reason for that).”

    that’s (i’m assuming) dutch humor, which is not really his fault.

  11. Makati1 on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 6:33 pm 

    On a 1 to 10 scale, the oily problem is about a 1 or 2 max. I quit reading the bullshit put out by the liars club, called The Petroleum Cartel, months ago.

    As pointed out by Ap, the number 10 problem is the coming extinction, followed by a global nuclear war as number 9. Lack of oil and a financial breakdown is an inconvenience compared to the other ‘problems’.

    Get a real perspective folks.

  12. Makati1 on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 6:38 pm 

    BTW: Can anyone here tell me what losing billions of tons of weight will do the the tectonic plate Antarctica sits on? We have to remember that there are at least 30 inactive volcanoes sitting under the ice there. When that plate lifts, and it will, what is going to happen? Another trigger pulled by Mother Nature? A super melt that hits the hockey stick on the chart”

    Oh, and the ice there equals about 160 feet of sea level rise when it turns to water again.

  13. __ on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 7:43 pm 

    Awesome. Some progress. Enjoy apneafag. I’m sure you will. It’s like anal for you. Keep the shit burning apepigs

  14. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 9:27 pm 

    clog, so now you have stooped to making up fake quotes and attributing them to me and then answering them? Just fucking stop that.

    Now your little link of ice sheet growth (data ending in 2008) is not an ah ha gotcha moment. It comes from the same scientific community that you say is in it for the grant money and accuse of being involved in some new world order conspiracy, so why are you now, in this one instance, using their data?

    Is everyone supposed to believe that the only findings from the scientific studies that count are the ones you approve?

    The honesty of the scientists, who are not alarmists, but highly conservative and straight shooters who call it as they see it and do not jump to conclusions, really work in the favor of denier scum like you who do.

    clog, don’t forget the findings also showed 2014 was the warmest year on record then they showed 2015 was followed by another record breaking year in 2016.

    The odds of that happening without AGW are about zero.

  15. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 9:49 pm 

    clog, good news. Your hero POTUS trump is finally doing something about getting rid of those parasitic system draining illegal alien scum. Ship them fucking scum back to their shit holes.

    US Deportations of Europeans Could Exceed Last Fiscal Year

    The federal crackdown on illegal immigration is causing anxiety among Europeans, who have long been able to fly under the radar.

    “BOSTON (AP) — Europeans often hid in plain sight as Latin Americans, Asians and others living illegally in America were sent packing. But now they’re starting to realize they are not immune to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, and they’re worried.

    The number of Europeans deported this federal fiscal year from the United States could surpass last fiscal year’s total, according to figures provided to The Associated Press by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    From Oct. 2, 2016 through June 24, more than 1,300 Europeans have been removed, compared with 1,450 during all of federal fiscal year 2016 — the last under President Barack Obama. The agency didn’t provide estimates broken down by calendar year.

    In San Jose, California, an HIV-positive Russian asylum seeker faces possible deportation after overstaying his visa. In Chicago, Polish and Irish community groups say they’re seeing inquiries about immigration and citizenship-related services surge as people seek legal protections.

    And in Boston, John Cunningham, a well-known Irishman who had overstayed his visa by 14 years, was sent back to Ireland last week, sending shivers through the city’s sizeable Irish expat community.

    “People are very, very concerned and lying low,” says Ronnie Millar, of the Boston-based Irish International Immigrant Center. “The message is that if it can happen to John, it can happen to anyone.”

    Europeans comprise about 440,000 of the estimated 11 million people living illegally in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

    Unlike poor downtrodden uneducated and unskilled raggedy ass third worlders, these illegal Euro-scum actually do take the good paying jobs from native born Americans I bet you won’t find any Euro illegals out in the fields under a hot sun picking fruits and vegetables for $5 an hour. No no no, they’re the ones who took your sales jobs and IT jobs. They have the same education and skill sets and often better. Almost 1/2 million of them.

  16. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 10:30 pm 

    More than 6,000 firefighters battling wildfires in California as vineyards, homes burn

    -Extreme heat and dry conditions are leading to a busy wildfire season in California

    -The major fires are spread throughout the state, resulting in thousands of evacuations

    -Two large blazes are in the Santa Barbara area, including one that caused damage to a vineyard run by Treasury Wine Estates

  17. Bloomer on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 11:18 pm 

    No spin there from the business insider on this historical event. Its all good folks nothing to see here: next up is nascar high-lights followed by some house renovation tele…..

  18. Apneaman on Wed, 12th Jul 2017 11:50 pm 

    Watching the planet’s ice sheets disappear—Professor Eric Rignot

    “Published on May 4, 2017

    Professor Eric Rignot leads a US research group that uses satellite data to monitor the world’s ice sheets. He explains how measurements since the early 1990s show that Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice at an accelerating rate, which, if unchecked, will result in about one metre of sea level rise by the end of the century, and six to nine metres in the next few hundred years.”

  19. Cloggie on Thu, 13th Jul 2017 1:49 am 

    Now your little link of ice sheet growth (data ending in 2008) is not an ah ha gotcha moment. It comes from the same scientific community that you say is in it for the grant money and accuse of being involved in some new world order conspiracy, so why are you now, in this one instance, using their data?

    Obviously scientists living of the government tit want grants, the fusionists come to mind. But I never suggested they are lying about actual findings.

    Can could provide a link showing the results of a scientific study that claims that the net ice volume of Antarctica is actually decreasing? No? Thought so, you can’t. Because there isn’t any. It is still growing and therefore ice sheets breaking off from the continent is a non-event. But if your grandma pisses in her pants, you still want to book that on climate change.

    US Deportations of Europeans Could Exceed Last Fiscal Year

    Wow, 1300 removed! Big f* deal.

    Meanwhile I would keep an eye on those Europeans if I were you.

    A smart American (yes, they do exist), who calles himself a European, explaining why the Deep State (that’s you, TalmudTurd) wants to destroy Trump junior:

    Keep weakening America for us with encouraging more third world immigration and as such increase European-American despair with their own country… and prepare the ground for a break-up. And wait for a Eurasian Odoacer to come and pay the US a visit, this not to destroy Rome, but another capital:

    WW3 is coming and will probably be initiated in the South-China Sea and fueled by Chinese lust for Australia. It will start shortly after Trump will have left the building.
    Chinese State Media – Russia, China ‘Fed Up With US Hegemony’, Destabilization
    China Sends Troops to Open First Overseas Military Base in Horn of Africa

  20. Apneaman on Thu, 13th Jul 2017 12:09 pm 

    clog liar, truth (which you don’t care about) of many phenomena in the Antarctic is that there are different opinions from different scientists who study them. This ain’t no secret.

    If they were all conspiring as you and the other losers claim wouldn’t they all just submit data indicating everything is getting worse? Why would they have published data showing ice sheet growth if they were alarmist conspirators? Another contradiction to the conspiracy claims.

    You still haven’t answered why you linked to an article where you knew the data ended in 2008? Why did you link to older stuff when you knew there are much more recent numbers from newer data sets?

    New research shows growth of East Antarctic Ice Sheet was less than previously suggested

    Why do you act as if a few Antarctic ice sheets are the only metric that matters? Do you think that if you present a link that indicates some of the Antarctic ice sheets had some growth (due to melting Antarctic land ice) that it cancels the tens of thousand other pieces of evidence? Cherry picking fail. Look at the big picture.

    NASA Study Shows Global Sea Ice Diminishing, Despite Antarctic Gains

    March 22, 2017
    Sea Ice Extent Sinks to Record Lows at Both Poles

    Clog, there are 4 main methods in which sea ice is measured. Can you name them? NO. Do you know what they mean? Do you know which one is most important and why? NO and nor do you care because you just want a quick copy and paste headline for your little deniar-liar games.

  21. Apneaman on Thu, 13th Jul 2017 12:26 pm 

    clog, how am I the deep state again? Oh right I’m an operative (Manchurian Candidate style) who they conspired to be born and raise in Canada in the 1960’s, so one day in the 21st century they can “code word” me into action and I will pull off a deep state assignation.

    You have quite the imagination there clog. You should consider writing trashy spy novels.

    You want to know how political I have been in my life?

    In the 33 years of eligibility, I have never voted in any election (or cared) at any level except for my trade union election (business manager, apprentice coordinate, etc).

    Sure there’s a deep state/establishment. Trump and his jew boy son in law and family are part of it.

  22. Apneaman on Thu, 13th Jul 2017 12:33 pm 

    Southern Europe swelters as heatwave sparks wildfires and closes tourist sites

    Fires erupt across parts of Italy and Athens authorities shut the Acropolis as temperatures expected to hit nearly 50C in some regions

    “A heatwave is rolling across southern Europe, fuelling wildfires, exacerbating droughts in Italy and Spain and leading the Greek authorities to close some of the most popular tourist sites.”

    “In Greece, the heatwave led the culture ministry to close popular archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens, on Wednesday.”

    Record rain pounds Paris, shutters metro stations

  23. deadlykillerbeaz on Thu, 13th Jul 2017 2:48 pm 

    Antarctica has been sequestering too much fresh water from the hydrosphere for the past 100 000 years. Time for Antarctica to return that water to the rest of the world. Antarctica is being a greedy pig. lol

    The Aral Sea needs it more than Antarctica.

    If you like wine watch the movie ‘Bottle Shock’. Another great movie.

  24. Apneaman on Fri, 14th Jul 2017 10:50 am 

    Spain heatwave breaks records and kills one

    Oh well, too many Eurotards on this planet anyway. Besides, they need to make room for the unstoppable waves of MENA climate N war refugees.

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