May 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

World's largest iceberg breaks off in Antarctica

A visual comparison of Majorca and A-76

Photo: ESA

An iceberg about 73 times the size of Manhattan has broken off from Antarctica's Ronne Ice Shelf, making it the world's largest, current iceberg, the European Space Agency confirmed Wednesday.

Of note: Icebergs separating from ice shelves — a process known as calving — is a natural occurrence, and scientists aren't attributing this one to climate change.

The big picture: The iceberg has been named A-76 after the Antarctic quadrant it was sighted in on May 14. The National Ice Center tracks large icebergs due to the hazards they can pose to ships.

  • It measures 1,667.96 square miles in size, making it quite a bit bigger than the previous largest iceberg, A-23A, which measured 1,498.1 square miles, per the ESA.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' climate reporter Andrew Freedman: This iceberg comes soon after one of the largest icebergs on record, known as A-68, that calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017, finally disintegrated in the iceberg graveyard of the South Atlantic.

  • In general, scientists are concerned about the stability of floating ice shelves, since they can speed up the flow of land-based ice into the sea, but not every iceberg destabilizes an ice shelf, as in this instance.
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