A giant patch of ice larger than the Spanish island of Mallorca has sheared from the frozen edge of Antarctica in the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest afloat iceberg in the world, the European Space Agency said on Wednesday.
The newly calved berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, the space agency said in a statement on its website with a photo of the huge oblong ice cap.
Its area is 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles) and is 175 km (106 miles) long by 25 km (15 miles) wide.
For comparison, the Spanish tourist island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640 square kilometers (1,405 square miles). The US state of Rhode Island is even smaller, with a land mass of only 2,678 km2 (1,034 square miles).
The enormity of the A-76, which broke off the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica, ranks as the largest extant iceberg on the planet, overtaking the now second A-23A, by a size about 3380 square km (1305 square miles) and floating in the Weddell Sea.
Another massive Antarctic iceberg that threatened a penguin-populated island off the southern tip of South America has since lost much of its mass and shattered into piecesscientists said earlier this year.
The A-76 was first detected by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed by the US National Ice Center, based in Maryland, using images of Copernicus Sentinel-1, consisting of two polar orbiting satellites .
The Ronne Ice Shelf, near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula, is one of the largest of several huge floating ice sheets that connect to the mainland’s landmass and extend into the surrounding seas.
Periodic calving of large chunks of these plateaus is part of a natural cycle, and the breaking of the A-76, which is expected to split into two or three soon, is unrelated to climate change, Ted said. Scambos, a research glaciologist. at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Scambos said the Ronne and another large ice shelf, the Ross, have “performed stably and almost periodically” over the past century or more. Because the ice was already floating in the sea before it dislodged from the coast, its rupture does not raise ocean levels, he told Reuters via email.
Some ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula, further from the South Pole, have experienced rapid disintegration in recent years, a phenomenon scientists believe may be linked to global warming, according to US National Snow & Ice Data Center.