Iceberg the size of Delaware breaks off from Antarctica

Rift across the Larsen C ice shelf

Scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said Wednesday the iceberg broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf.

The iceberg's area is about 5,800 square kilometers, which is comparable with the size of Wales and is nearly twice the size of Luxemburg.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is hard to predict", said Adrian Luckman, the lead MIDAS researcher and an Antarctic scientist at Swansea University, in a statement. If the entire ice shelf breaks apart, that grounded ice could flow into the ocean, changing sea levels, Hogg says.

Luckman added, "We have no evidence to link this directly to climate change, and no reason to believe that it would not have happened without the extra warming that human activity has caused".

"Our glaciologists will now be watching closely to see whether the remaining Larsen C ice shelf becomes less stable than before the iceberg broke free", he said.

According to scientists, Larsen C is now at its smallest extent and about 10 other shelves further to the north along the Peninsula have either collapsed or retreated significantly in recent decades.

Since the iceberg was already floating, scientists say, there was no immediate impact on sea level.

The final breakaway was detected in data from a satellite instrument of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which images in the thermal infrared at a resolution of 1 kilometer, and confirmed by another instrument. Its volume is twice that of Lake Erie, according to Project MIDAS, a research group based in Britain.

The project, which is investigating the effects of a warming climate through a combination of fieldwork, satellite observation and computer simulation, describes the iceberg as one of the largest ever recorded.

The broken-off berg makes up around 12 percent of the area of Larsen C. Its loss is likely to speed up the destruction of the main ice shelf, until it disappears - like Larsen A and B before it.

"Right now, it's winter down there, so it's kind of locked into the sea ice in the Weddell Sea, so it will not move too much over the next few months", he said.

Before the iceberg calved this week, rapid advances in the rift in the ice shelf were reported in January, May and June.

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