- A 1.1-trillion-ton iceberg has calved off Antarctica, into the Southern Ocean.
- The block of ice is nearly the size of the Melbourne metropolitan area and nearly 20 times the volume of Port Phillip Bay – or nearly 1000 Sydney Harbours.
- Scientists aren’t sure where it will go, but Business Insider mapped all known iceberg paths from 1999-2016 to see where it may float.
Antarctica has birthed one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, scientists announced Wednesday morning.
A crack in an Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf calved the colossal new iceberg, which is roughly the area of Delaware state and more than double the volume of Lake Erie.
Researchers first noticed the rift in Antarctica’s ice in 2010, but it had been growing rapidly since 2016. The iceberg calved between July 10 and July 12, researchers said.
“The iceberg weighs more than a trillion tonnes,” Adrian Luckman and Martin O’Leary, two glaciologists at Swansea University, wrote in a July 12 blog post for the MIDAS Project, which has been monitoring the ice.
“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.”
— NASA ICE (@NASA_ICE) July 12, 2017
Luckman and O’Leary said the iceberg will probably be named “A68,” and that it’s one of the largest ever recorded — possibly the third-largest iceberg since satellite measurements began, according The Antarctic Report. However, Luckman said its enormous size makes its fate tough to predict.
“It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments,” he said. “Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.”
Where the iceberg may go
Although the iceberg’s path is uncertain, Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds, previously said that “ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands.”
Those islands lie more than 1,000 miles away from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.
To see which paths the iceberg will be most likely to take, Business Insider reached out to David G. Long of Brigham Young University, who works on a data project that tracks all recorded icebergs. The database goes back to 1978 with some gaps, Long wrote in an email, but is continuous from 1999 to today.
Business Insider compiled the data from June 1999 through April 2016 to show all the paths of known Antarctic icebergs in one image:
As the illustration shows, many icebergs that break off the Antarctic Peninsula drift north and east of that location.
Few are large enough to stay intact until they reach the warmer waters of the Falkland Islands, but many reach the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, which lie farther east.
Wherever iceberg A68 wanders, warmer ocean waters north of Antarctica will eventually melt it away.
Thankfully, this won’t contribute much to rising waters, since the ice “was already floating before it calved away,” Luckman said, and thus “has no immediate impact on sea level.”
To learn more about Antarctica’s gigantic iceberg, read our full story about its calving.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, we misstated the iceberg’s volume as comparable to that of Lake Michigan. The iceberg’s size is closer to double the volume of Lake Erie.