- The chunk of ice is 1,270 square kilometres in size and broke free in a process known as calving, according to a statement from (BAS)
- There is no evidence that climate change was a factor in this incident
- The last major calving incident on the Brunt Ice Shelf occurred in 1971
Following the build-up of a massive break in the floating ice over the past decade, a large iceberg bigger than New York broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea section of Antarctica the other day.
According to the British Antarctic Survey, or BAS, the iceberg is about 490 square miles in size and 492 feet thick.
The iceberg is large, but not as large as the one that calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017 and was on the verge of collapsing into South Georgia Island recently.
The BAS runs the Halley Research Station on the ice shelf, which will be unaffected by the calving, according to the group. The BAS relocated the station, which is constructed on skis, in 2016 to protect it from spreading cracks that could have left it stranded on an iceberg.
Brunt Ice Shelf calves along North Rift chasm – A 1270 km² #iceberg has broken off the #BruntIceShelf.#HalleyVI Research Station is closed for the winter and unlikely to be affected.— British Antarctic Survey (@BAS_News) February 26, 2021
Full story: https://t.co/l13QrWdnB0
📽️ #NorthRift, #Antarctica, 16 Feb 2021, @BAS_News pic.twitter.com/QyNt7sVOzT
According to a BAS news release, three big cracks have formed in the floating ice shelf over the last decade.
The BAS’s director of operations, Simon Garrod, said in a press release, “This is a dynamic situation. We relocated Halley Research Station inland four years ago to ensure that it would not be carried away by an iceberg. That was a wise decision.” The base is abandoned since it is only staffed during the Antarctic summer research season.
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Simon Garrod, further added, “Our job now is to keep a close eye on the situation and determine the possible effect of the new calving on the ice shelf that remains. We review our contingency plans on a regular basis to ensure the safety of our workers, protect our research station, and continue to deliver the science we undertake at Halley.”
Ice shelves are floating areas that help keep back ice that is anchored on land. The calving would not increase sea levels because they are already displacing water, but icebergs are closely monitored in case they pass into shipping lanes.
According to Adrian Luckman, a researcher at Swansea University, satellite photos of Brunt have been closely monitored as the cracks have developed.
Mr. Luckman while talking to BBC, said,” Although large calving events like the one observed at the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday are an entirely natural part of how they work, they are still rare and exciting.”
” It will be critical to determine if this calving causes more parts to break off in the coming days. We research the formation of ice shelf rifts at Swansea University because, while some lead to major calving events, others don’t, and the reasons for this could explain why large ice shelves occur in the first place,” Adrian Luckman told the BBC News. It’s also unclear if the calving event was driven in part by climate change, considering that ice shelf behaviour is a natural part of the process.
Calving events can speed up the movement of inland ice into the sea, but it’s unclear if this is the case with the Brunt Ice Shelf. Such migration will lead to sea level rise, and there are increasing worries about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s potentially irreversible melting as a result of warming waters weakening ice shelves and breaching the base of inland glaciers.
The most recent calving occurrence on the Brunt Ice Shelf before this one happened in 1971, according to the European Space Agency.