Antarctica gives birth to world’s largest iceberg
- A giant slab of ice bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca has sheared off from the frozen edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg currently afloat in the world
- The newly calved berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission
- Its surface area spans 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles)and measures 175 km long by 25 km wide.
- The enormity of A-76, which broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, ranks as the largest existing iceberg on the planet, surpassing the now second-place A-23A, about 3,380 square km (1,305 square miles) in size and also floating in the Weddell Sea.
- Another massive Antarctic iceberg that had threatened a penguin-populated island off the southern tip of South America has since lost much of its mass and broken into pieces ,scientists said earlier this year.
- A-76 was first detected by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed by the U.S. National Ice Center based in Maryland using imagery from Copernicus Sentinel-1, consisting of two polar-orbiting satellites.
- The Ronne Ice Shelf on the flank of the Antarctic Peninsulais one of the largest of several enormous floating sheets of ice that connect to the continent’s landmass and extend out into the surrounding seas.
- Periodic calving off of large chunks of those shelves is part of a natural cycle. But some ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula have undergone rapid disintegration in recent years, a phenomenon scientists believe may be related to climate change
- An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open (salt) water. Small bits of disintegrating icebergs are called “growlers” or “bergy bits”.
- Much of an iceberg is below the surface which led to the expression “tip of the iceberg” to illustrate a small part of a larger unseen issue. Icebergs are considered a serious maritime hazard