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Huge Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf

Image: Huge Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf

A section of an iceberg broke away as part of the natural cycle of iceberg calving off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica in this satellite image released by the European Space Agency on July 12, 2017. (ESA/Handout via Reuters)

By    |   Wednesday, 12 Jul 2017 09:52 AM

A huge iceberg has broken off Antarctica this week, weighing more than a trillion tons and twice as large as Lake Erie, researchers with the United Kingdom-based Project MIDAS said in a blog post Wednesday.

The breaking off of the iceberg, which can only be seen in its entirety by satellite thermal imaging, happened at the Larsen C Ice Shelf with the iceberg being one of the largest ever recorded, Project MIDAS said.

The project has been investigating the effects of global warming on the Larsen C ice shelf in West Antarctica, which has caused large melt ponds to form on the ice shelf, according to the project's website.

The breaking was monitored over the past year through data from the European Space Agency Sentinel-1 satellites – part of the European Copernicus Space Component.

"Although this is a natural event, and we're not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position," Martin O'Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team, said of the recent calving, per the project's blog.

"This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable," O'Leary added.

PBS Newshour reported that, although the iceberg would not affect sea levels if it melts since it was already floating in the ocean, it could still cause havoc for mariners sailing through the South Atlantic where sea currents could carry the hulking iceberg.

The broadcaster added that if Larsen C continues to shatter, it would allow glaciers to flow into the ocean, which would raise sea levels.

"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse – opinions in the scientific community are divided, Adrian Luckman of Swansea University and part of the Project MIDAS team said on its blog.

"Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away," he added.

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A huge iceberg has broken off Antarctica this week, weighing more than a trillion tons and twice as large as Lake Erie, researchers with the United Kingdom-based Project MIDAS said in a blog post Wednesday.
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Wednesday, 12 Jul 2017 09:52 AM
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