A giant slab of ice bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca has recently calved off from the frozen edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg afloat in the world.
Note: The term “calving” is used when an iceberg breaks off.
- It has been named as A-76.
- The Ice Shelf from which A-76 calved out is called Ronne Ice Shelf.
- A-76 is the latest in a series of large ice blocks to dislodge in a region acutely vulnerable to climate change.
- However, as per the scientists, the dislodging of the iceberg appears to be part of a natural polar cycle.
- The British Antarctic Survey initially spotted the floating berg after it broke off the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf.
- Its movement was then confirmed by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) using images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1, consisting of two polar-orbiting satellites.
- The Ice Berg A-76 is 170 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide.
- The ice berg was spotted by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite called Copernicus Sentinel. It is a two-satellite constellation that orbits the earth’s poles.
- The Ice Berg is now floating on the Weddell Sea. Weddell Sea is a large bay in the Western Antarctic.
Impact of the ice berg on sea level:
Every time an ice berg calves out from Antarctica, it adds up to the rising sea levels. However, in this case, the ice shelf from which this berg carved out was already floating on water.
Predecessor of A-76:
- Prior to A-76, A-74 ice berg calved out from Antarctica.
- In 2020, the berg, by then known as A-68a snapped off. It appeared to be on a collision course with a remote South Atlantic island home to thousands of penguins and seals, threatening to impede their ability to gather food. But it broke apart before it could cause any damage to the abundant wildlife in the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia.
How are icebergs named?
- Icebergs are traditionally named after the Antarctic quadrant in which they were originally detected, then a sequential number.
- If they break apart more letters are added to differentiate the fragments.
- To qualify as an iceberg, an ice block must be higher than 4.8 metres (16 feet) above sea level, be at least 29 to 49 metres thick and cover an area of at least 500 square metres, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
- An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open (salt) water.
- Their formation is part of a natural process, although one which can be accelerated by warming air and ocean temperatures due to human-caused climate change.
- Small bits of disintegrating icebergs are called “growlers” or “bergy bits”.
- Much of an iceberg is below the surface which led to the expression “tip of the iceberg” to illustrate a small part of a larger unseen issue.
- Icebergs are considered a serious maritime hazard.
- The 1912 loss of the RMS Titanic led to the formation of the International Ice Patrol in 1914.
- Icebergs calved by glaciers that face the open sea, such as in Greenland, are irregular shaped piles.
- In Antarctica, ice shelves calve large tabular (table top) icebergs.
- The biggest iceberg ever recorded was Iceberg B-15A which split off the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in 2000.