Satellite images captured the break, which occurred about 10 years after satellite monitoring detected the growth of a previously dormant crack in the ice known as Chasm-1, about 10 years after a smaller iceberg called A74 separated from the same ice shelf. two years later. A rift valley is a crack in an ice shelf that extends from the surface to the ocean below, while an ice shelf is a floating piece of ice that extends from a glacier that formed on land.
Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, wrote in an email that while the iceberg “is a massive block of ice, about 500 billion tons … it is far from the largest iceberg ever recorded, It rivals Long Island.”
The calving event is not expected to affect the BAS’ Halley Research Station, which was relocated further inland in 2016 as a precautionary measure once Chasm-1 began growing.
However, “new fissures, which place the base within about 10 miles of the ocean, are likely to emerge in the coming years, forcing yet another costly relocation of the station,” Scambos wrote. The new iceberg is expected to follow a similar path as the A74 into the Weddell Sea and will be named by the US National Ice Center.
Unlike some icebergs and collapsing ice shelves previously linked to climate change, the BAS press release said the rupture was a “natural process” and that “there is no evidence that climate change played a significant role.”
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Instead, the cracks started to widen due to “the natural growth of the ice shelf, increasing pressure,” Hilmar Gudmundsson, a glaciology researcher at Northumbria University, said in a 2019 BBC report.
Scambos likens the calving of an iceberg to a chisel on a plank. “In this case, the chisel was a small island called ‘MacDonald Ice Rise,'” Scambos wrote. “The ice flow pushes ice toward this rocky seamount, forcing it to break apart and eventually break free from the floating ice shelf.”
“These massive calving icebergs, sometimes the size of a small state, are pretty spectacular. But they’re just part of how Antarctica’s ice sheet works,” Scambos said. “Most of the time, they have nothing to do with climate change.”