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There’s a new iceberg off the coast of Antarctica. The yet-to-be-named, 600-square-mile iceberg broke away from the nearly 500-foot-thick Brunt Ice Shelf on Sunday during a particularly high tide known as a spring tide, according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
The calving event is “part of the natural behavior of the Brunt Ice Shelf” and “not linked to climate change,” BAS glaciologist Dominic Hodgson said in the release.
Drone video captured Jan. 22 shows a massive rift where a 598-square-foot iceberg broke off from the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. (Video: British Antarctic Survey via Storyful)
Satellite imagery captured the fracture, which occurred about 10 years after satellite monitoring spotted growth in a previously dormant crack in the ice called Chasm-1, and nearly two years after a slightly smaller iceberg called A74 separated from the same ice shelf. An abyss is a fissure in the ice shelf that extends from the surface to the ocean below, while an ice shelf is a floating piece of ice that extends from glaciers formed on land.
Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote in an email that while the iceberg is “a massive mass of ice of about 500 billion tons … it is far from the largest iceberg ever seen, the island that competed with Long.”
The calving event is not expected to affect BAS’s Halley Research Station, which was moved further inland as a precaution in 2016 after Chasm-1 began to grow.
“However, the new fracture puts the base about 10 miles from the ocean, and new fractures could appear in the next few years, forcing another expensive station move,” 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.
In contrast to some previous icebergs and collapsed ice shelves that have been linked to climate change, the BAS press release says the rupture is a “natural process” and there is “no evidence that climate change is a significant factor.” has played”.
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Rather, the chasm began to widen because “stress… built up due to the natural growth of the ice shelf,” said Hilmar Gudmundsson, a glaciology researcher at Northumbria University, in a 2019 BBC story.
Scambos compares the calving of the iceberg to a chisel on a wooden board. “In this case, the chisel was a small island called ‘MacDonald Ice Rise,'” wrote Scambos. “The ice was pushed against this rocky seamount by the ice flow, forcing it to split and eventually break away from the floating ice shelf.”
“These large iceberg calvings, sometimes the size of a small state, are spectacular. But they’re just part of how the Antarctic ice sheet works,” Scambos said. “Most of the time they have nothing to do with climate change.”