Huge iceberg breaks off Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica

Huge iceberg breaks off Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica

A massive iceberg, about three times the size of London, split off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf sometime between 10 and 12 July 2017.

Huge iceberg breaks off Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica
Huge iceberg breaks off Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica

The calving of the new iceberg was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, and confirmed by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument (VIIRS) on the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite.

Last Updated

11 March 2021

Published on

24 July 2017

The breakage was first reported by Project Midas, an Antarctic research project based in the United Kingdom.

Figure 1 is the Day Night Band from the VIIRS instrument on 13 July 04:49 UTC, the fracture from the ice shelf can be clearly seen as the thin dark line, which is an area of clear water (indicated by the yellow text).

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Figure 1

On Figure 2, the infrared image from the VIIRS instrument, the iceberg (named A-38) is very distinct. 

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Figure 2 

Although breakoffs from the ice shelf are normal, this is one of the largest icebergs to have broken off.

Because of a lack of measurements over the Larsen C ice shelf, there is much debate about if this event can be attributed in any way to climate change. In this case, A68 will not raise global sea levels, as it was already afloat in the Weddell Sea. Research will need to be done in order to see if the loss of this iceberg will speed up the collapse of the Larsen C ice shelf.

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