A 2,200-square-mile (5,800-square-kilometer) chunk of ice has separated from the Larsen C ice shelf. The new iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded.
Scientists who have been observing the growing crack in the Larsen C ice shelf for months announced Wednesday that the trillion-ton iceberg had finally broken away at some point in the last two days.
Toward the end, the calving happened faster than expected. The crack suddenly extended 11 miles (17 kilometers) within one week in May.
The Larsen C ice shelf has now been reduced in sized by a record 10 percent.
Scientists attribute these collapses, and the retreat of several Antarctic ice shelves in recent decades, to global warming.
“The collapse of Larsen A and B has been connected to warming ocean temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula,” said Jansen. “The question is now whether the trend will spread toward the south and destabilize Larsen C, too.”
Scientists will now be monitoring Larsen C to see if it follows the natural cycle and grows again – or melts further and eventually collapses.
But data from the Antarctic research project MIDAS at the University of Swansea in the United Kingdom already point toward an eventual collapse.
That could take decades. But unlike the icebergs that form from the ice shelf, the ice sheet behind it is over land. If that ice melts, it would add additional water to the sea, leading to a rise in ocean levels.