A massive iceberg that broke off an Antarctic shelf earlier this month has been identified by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the world’s largest.
The iceberg is named A-76 and is more than 40 times the size of Paris, larger than the state of Rhode Island and 73 times as big as Manhattan.
MASSIVE ICEBERG ‒ LARGER THAN NEW YORK CITY ‒ BREAKS OFF IN ANTARCTICA
A-76, named for the quadrant in which it was first located — was first seen by researchers at the British Antarctic Survey using ESA’s Sentinel 1A satellite.
It was also confirmed by the U.S. National Ice Center (USNIC), which tracks and names Antarctic icebergs that are at least 10 nautical miles long or 20 square nautical miles large.
The 1,668 square-mile ice mass split from the Ronne Ice Shelf into the Weddell Sea and is anticipated to eventually drift into the South Atlantic where it would disintegrate.
LiveScience reported on Thursday that the event would not directly impact sea levels.
The 2,300-square-mile A-68 iceberg that calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017 has since melted away.
While ice shelves pretty regularly lose ice, scientists tie worryingly rapid loss to the impacts of a warming climate.
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A University of Leeds study from January reported that the rate at which ice is disappearing has increased markedly.
Scientists reported an increase of 0.8 trillion tons per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tons per year by 2017.
A January paper published in the journal Science Advances found that ice losses have soared from 760 billion tons annually in the 1990s to more than 1.2 trillion tons in the 2010s.
“Parts of Antarctica are in arrears, and that’s largely a consequence of increase in temperature or large calving events that have removed ice and destabilized the ice shelves themselves,” ESA senior scientist Mark Drinkwater told The Associated Press. “Climate is responsible for these changes. And over the longer term, of course, it will have wide-ranging impacts in different locations around Antarctica.”
Nevertheless, experts told The New York Times on Thursday that A-76 may not have separated from the shelf strictly due to climate change.
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“A76 and A74 are both just part of natural cycles on ice shelves that hadn’t calved anything big for decades,” British Antarctic Survey’s Laura Gerrish tweeted on May 14. “It’s important to monitor the frequency of all iceberg calving, but these are all expected for now.”
ESA said the title of “largest iceberg” was previously held by the almost 1,500-square-mile large A-23A.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.