Iceberg about the size of Delaware breaks off Antarctica
By NBC News
NBC NEWS - One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has broken off from an ice shelf in western Antarctica, researchers said Wednesday.
The iceberg — about the size of Delaware and weighing an estimated 1.12 trillion tons — finally ripped free sometime between Monday and Wednesday, scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain announced in a blog post.
They also tweeted a map to show where the iceberg detached — a process known as calving — from the Larsen C ice shelf. Scientists began monitoring the grinding process in Antarctica's fourth-largest ice shelf six years ago, tracking as a fissure more than 120 miles long developed.
They wrote Wednesday that the calving leaves Larsen C reduced in area by more than 12 percent, and the "landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever."
The iceberg measures more than 2,300 square miles and is more than 600 feet thick on average.
"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," Adrian Luckman, a professor and lead investigator with Swansea University, said in a statement. "It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."
Researchers said they would continue to probe whether the calving is linked to climate change. But because the ice shelf it tore from was already in the ocean and held a relatively small amount of land ice, the iceberg's potential melting would not immediately change the sea level.
The ice itself could be a risk, researchers warn, because it could float into in an area where cruise ships might pass from South America.