- Satellite data from the European Space Agency reveals more about the A23a iceberg
- Scientists revealed that it is moving after remaining stationary for more than 30 years
New satellite measurements reveal the true size of the world’s largest iceberg.
The floating ice platform, called A23a, has an area of 1,500 square miles, a volume of 263 cubic miles, and a mass of just under a trillion tons.
This makes it not only four times larger than Greater London, but up to 100 million times heavier than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
A23a – which is shaped like a ‘tooth’ – is now being transported northwards by winds and ocean currents ‘rapidly’ after 30 years of resting on the ocean floor.
It is drifting across the Antarctic Peninsula (which juts out from the mainland like a tail) and is supposed to be broken up by the rough waters once it reaches the open ocean.
According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which visited A23a last week, the iceberg is traveling north at a rate of about 30 miles per day.
There is a possibility that this huge mountain could disrupt the feeding routine of wildlife such as penguins, for example, if they were parked in an area where foraging normally occurs.
A BAS spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘It depends on its route, but there is potential for impact on wildlife if it approaches any of the sub-Antarctic islands.’
A23a is the largest surviving portion of an iceberg that broke free from the Filchner Ice Shelf in Antarctica in August 1986.
It had only moved a few hundred miles when it became stuck or “anchored” to the ocean floor – and ended up becoming stationary for the next 30 years.
Icebergs “settle” to the ocean floor when their keel (the part below the water’s surface) is deeper than the water depth.
The European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite found that one part of the iceberg’s base in particular is stuck much deeper, acting as an anchor.
Scientists revealed last month that the mountain is moving again, as winds and ocean currents carry it north.
ESA satellite images show the iceberg approaching Clarence Island and Elephant Island, both near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
“A23a has occurred and is rapidly heading away from Antarctic waters,” the agency said on December 1.
“Like most icebergs from the Weddell Strip, A23a likely ends in the South Atlantic on a path called Iceberg Alley.”
Experts at BAS on board the British polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, captured footage of the A23a last week, after they crossed its path during a “lucky” encounter.
The team sampled ocean surface water around the iceberg’s path to help determine what life could form around it and how the iceberg and other mountains affect carbon in the ocean.
“It’s amazing to see this huge mountain in person, it extends as far as the eye can see,” said Andrew Myers, chief scientist on the research vessel.
American planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who was part of another expedition to visit A23a last month, posted footage from the mountain to X.
in One job“It’s like you’re sailing alongside a new country,” she said.
A23a is currently the largest iceberg in the world, but that title won’t last forever because all icebergs eventually break off.
As it heads north, water temperatures will see A23a decrease in thickness before it completely disintegrates and melts.
The previous record holder was A76, which broke off an ice shelf in the Weddell Sea in May 2021, but has since split into three pieces.
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