Throw out your world maps and globes, people of planet Earth, the geography of the world has changed. An iceberg bigger than the size of PEI calved away from Antarctica sometime between July 10 and 12, NASA confirms. That’s such a significant change to the shape of the continent that scientists say maps will need to be redrawn. The A68 Iceberg measures 5,800 square kilometers (200 square kilometers bigger than PEI), weighs approximately one trillion tonnes and is about two times the volume of Lake Erie.
— NASA (@NASA) July 12, 2017
The UK-based research team Project MIDAS reported a crack in the Larson C ice shelf–their main subject of study–a few months ago and were actually surprised at how long it took for the piece of ice to fully detach itself. The ice shelf (which is about the size of Nova Scotia) has been reduced by 12 percent by the break, MIDAS reports, and ‘the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever.’
Experts are divided on what happens next. MIDAS says that since the iceberg was floating already, it detaching shouldn’t affect sea levels at all. It’s like how an ice cube melting in a cup of water doesn’t change the amount of water in the cup. Others think that it will have an effect on sea level. That remains to be seen.
Something that experts all agree will raise sea levels would be the breaking up of the Larson C ice shelf itself. The shelf has become significantly less stable since the break. Judging by the how sea levels rose when Larson C’s brother, Larson B, broke up, we can expect another rise when that inevitably happens. Did someone say ‘global warming’? Oh yeah, Al Gore did.
The Larsen C ice shelf has broken away from Antarctica, a jarring reminder of why we must solve the climate crisis. https://t.co/3ddOminhX3
— Al Gore (@algore) July 12, 2017
Another big question is where the iceberg will end up. It shouldn’t move very far right now since it’s winter in the Antarctic and the water is mostly clogged with ice, but it may move north and out to sea in the Antarctic summer (our winter). Scientists are placing their bets as to where it will end up. The most common theory is that it will break apart and melt as it hits warmer waters (yeah, not very exciting, but science can’t always be crazy).