Iceberg Bigger than New York City Breaks off in Antarctica

by Keeli Parkey
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An iceberg of staggering size has broken off of Antarctica. According to a report found on CNN.com, the separation occurred close to a British research facility on Friday (Feb. 26).

The iceberg separated from what is known as the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. According to information released by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the iceberg in question is 490 square miles in size. This makes it larger than New York City. A process known as “calving” is how the massive area separated itself from the continent.

Iceberg Separation Was Expected by Scientists

According to CNN’s report, scientists were not surprised that the break occurred. In fact, it was expected for several years due to large cracks discovered in the area. BAS reported that the cracks were found in the floating ice shelf that is 150 meters in thickness.

“Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years,” BAS Director Jane Francis said in the statement, according to CNN.

Leading to the separation was what scientists referred to as the North Rift. This rift, CNN reported, started to make its way closer to an additional crack during November. In January, the rift expanded at the rate of one kilometer per day. On Friday, the rift reached a distance of “several hundred meters.” This, according to BAS, was enough to separate it from the ice shelf.

The report on CNN.com included the following video of the rift. This footage was taken from the air earlier during the month of February.

British Scientists Studying in Antarctica

The Brunt Ice Shelf is home to the Halley Research Station. This station is operated by the BAS, according to CNN. Due to the Antarctic winter, scientists are currently not working at the station. There are 12 individuals who work there when the base is open. They all left in February before the iceberg broke away from the ice shelf. Even with no staff in the area, the BAS is able to monitor what is taking place on the ice shelf. GPS and satellite images allow the scientists to monitor the area, CNN reported.

“All the data are sent back to Cambridge for analysis, so we know what’s happening even in the Antarctic winter, when there are no staff on the station, it’s pitch black, and the temperature falls below minus 50 degrees C (or -58F),” Francis said, according to CNN.

Francis also reported that the iceberg that broke away from the Brunt Ice Shelf took place due to “a natural process.” BAS scientists do not believe that climate change was a major factor in the iceberg breaking away, according to CNN.

The iceberg that separated from the Brunt Ice Shelf is actually smaller than the one that separated during 2017. The 2017 iceberg separated from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, according to CNN. The Larsen C Ice Shelf iceberg from 2017 is not believed by BAS to be connected to the Brunt Ice Shelf separation, CNN also reported.

Outsider.com