WATCH: World’s Largest Iceberg Breaks Away From Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica

by Will Shepard

The sun is heating the world and transitioning us away from winter and into summer. This is particularly relevant in the southern hemisphere. One of the tell-tale signs that summer is coming is the ice melting in Antarctica. Warmer weather means that there are plenty of icebergs being formed.

In early May, the iceberg A-23A in the Weddell Sea on Antarctica was the largest in the world. However, that iceberg is an afterthought now. There is a new largest berg in the world now. That title belongs to A-76. Incredibly, this new chunk of ice measures a whopping 1,670 square miles. In other words, you could fit the entire state of Rhode Island on it with space to spare.

When the massive piece of ice broke away from Antarctica broke away, it was captured by a satellite. The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 caught it breaking away from the Ronne Ice Shelf. This incredible sight happened on May 13.

After the incident was capture, the Space Agency shared a GIF on their website. The footage shows the massive iceberg breaking away. During the video, the Agency compares the size to Spain’s island of Majorca.

So, How Does an Iceberg Get Its Name After Breaking Away From an Ice Shelf?

Previously, the largest iceberg in the world was A-23A. It was 1,500 square miles or 3,880 square kilometers, a massive piece of ice by any standard.

The European Space Agency explained how they name the ice chunks. “Icebergs are traditionally named from the Antarctic quadrant in which they were originally sighted, then a sequential number, then, if the iceberg breaks, a sequential letter.”

Consequently, the A-76 name is related to the region of Antarctica that it calved from. The 76 also refers to the number of icebergs that have broken away and are actively being tracked. Of course, many other much smaller calving incidents happen regularly but aren’t big enough to be tracked.

Even though there might be some concern about this big calving based on climate change, don’t fret. According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), there is no real cause for concern. The ice shelf calving this impressively is not setting off any alarm bells in the scientific community.

Alex Brisbourne, a BSA glaciologist, said, “We know that the ocean around Antarctica is warming as a result of global heating, but the Weddell Sea, where iceberg A-76 sits, is not currently experiencing this warming.”

Again, the size of this glacier is roughly 75 times bigger than Manhattan. In total, the iceberg took three days to calve off of the Ronne Ice Shelf, finishing on May 16. No, though, it joins the A-23A glacier in the Weddell Sea.