A nearly one trillion tonne iceberg, measuring at least 5,800 square km, broke away from Antarctica, according to scientists on Wednesday, potentially creating a hazard for movement of ships around the continent. As per scientists at the University of Swansea and the British Antarctic Survey, the iceberg, one of the biggest on record, broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica between July 10 and 12. The scientists enumerated the iceberg has been very close to drifting off for a few months.
But while the breaking off of the iceberg is worrisome, experts caution that the glaciers behind it are the bigger problem. The size of the iceberg is lesser of an issue because icebergs, according to scientists, calve all the time and have minimal direct effect on sea level.
Experts opine that the large chunk of ice mass floating in Antarctica is not a new development, but the freely floating element is. A report in Bloomberg written by author Eric Roston elucidates that although ice shelves already do float on open water, the icebergs that are created as a result of it don’t affect global sea levels, which are reported to be rising at approximately 3.4 millimeters annually. The report further states that warmer water usually takes up a bigger volume than similar amount of cold water. This contributes to the expansion. Although the gigantic Antarctica ice sheet will eventually melt into water and warm over a period of time, the report says it won’t necessarily have a significant effect on overall heating of the world’s oceans, cautioning that glaciers pouring water into the oceans are of greater concern.
According to a report in news.com.au, scientists explain that while glaciers flow from land towards the sea, their ice are absorbed into the ice shelf. Once the ice shelf is removed, glaciers tend to flow faster, which in turn increases the speed at which ice shifts from land to sea. This, scientists say, has a much bigger impact on sea level than iceberg breaking off does.
What happens to the rift in the Antarctica ice sheet?
After calving, the ice sheet will give birth to a big new iceberg. But this development according to scientists might create instability in the entire Larsen C ice shelf and eventually break up entirely. This might have a potential impact that could take decades to play out.
A Reuters report quoted Swansea University professor Adrian Luckman as saying, “It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.”
ntarctica’s ice-free areas to increase by 2100?
Meanwhile, according to a study conducted by Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), areas of Antarctica that have no ice could increase by up to 25 per cent by the turn of the century due to climate change. This, the study suggests, could lead to drastic changes in the continent’s biodiversity. The study by AAD, who are the first to delve into the effects of climate change on ice-free areas in Antarctic, elucidates that such areas will eventually expand and unite.
To this effect, AAD researcher Aleks Terauds sums it up saying: as per the prediction, by 2100 ice could disappear in a further 17,267 sq km, which represents a surge of around 25 per cent on current levels.