It’s been about nine months since NASA’s IceBridge mission photographed a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf and predicted the imminent birth of a 2,200 square mile, trillion ton iceberg (technically known as “calving“). The media have been reporting on the story ever since, and it’s been interesting to watch the size comparisons that have ranged from the state of Delaware, twice the size of Lake Erie, a quarter the size of Wales and even the size of Shanghai.
Today we got the news of the break, and here’s a basic video from Wochit News about it.
Here’s a more technical explanation from the British Antarctic Survey.
Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project investigating the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf, published this announcement.
Larsen C calves trillion ton iceberg (Martin O’Leary, Adrian Luckman and Project MIDAS)
The European Space Agency sponsored CryoSat Mission that is charged with measuring the thickness of polar sea ice and monitoring changes in the ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica has been publishing regular updates on the calving, and they also recently published a unique 3D view of Antarctica.
Mainstream media are also publishing their own accounts, and my favorite is this story from The New York Times.
An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off a Major Antarctic Ice Shelf (Jugal Patel & Justin Gillis, New York Times)
The New York Times take on this is particularly relevant because they have been investing significant resources in covering Antarctica over the last few months. They even published The Antarctica Series of four 360° Videos in May and June of this year as well as this video about The Ross Ice Shelf a few weeks ago.
Of course, as pointed out in an earlier Cosma post Doomed? (May 24, 2017), the bigger question surrounding this event is whether or not it is a result of man-made impacts on the cryosphere. Different sources are more or less conservative about their conclusions, but few rule out the possibility of some connection between this event and global warming as well as suggesting a relationship to the long term rise in sea levels. Here’s an excellent opinion piece from The New York Times that captures prevailing viewpoints about the significance of the breakup of Antarctica’s ice sheets.
Warnings From Antarctica (Fen Montaigne, New York Times)
No matter what, it is critical to be aware of the impact human activity can have on Earth’s cryosphere, and the attention that this iceberg’s calving brought to the issue is a good thing. Here are some further stories and resources related to the issue for your consideration.
Thanks to global warming, Antarctica is beginning to turn green (Chris Mooney, Washington Post)
Antarctic has seen widespread change in last 50 years, moss study reveals (Matt Amesbury, AAAS Eureka Alert)
NASA hosted site with Cryospheric Animations.