March 3, 2024

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The real size of the world’s largest iceberg: The massive ‘iceberg’ that broke free last month is just under a trillion tons

The real size of the world’s largest iceberg: The massive ‘iceberg’ that broke free last month is just under a trillion tons

  • 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.

Impressive: The vast platform of floating ice 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 100 million times heavier than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Read more: The largest iceberg in the world is moving

A23a is now being transported north by winds and ocean currents

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.

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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.

This image provided by the British Antarctic Survey shows iceberg A23a, as seen from RRS Sir David Attenborough, Antarctica, on December 1, 2023.
While A23a originally broke off from the Filchner Ice Shelf in 1986, it remained anchored to the seafloor until last month.
ESA satellite images show the iceberg approaching Clarence Island and Elephant Island, both near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

How do icebergs form?

An iceberg is a piece of freshwater ice that has broken off from a glacier and is floating in the ocean.

Icebergs form when chunks of ice break off the end of an ice shelf or glacier that flows into a body of water.

This is called “calving” and is a natural process responsible for the loss of ice at the edges of glaciers and ice sheets.

Source: antarcticglaciers.org

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.

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“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.

To give a sense of scale, this image shows the area of ​​the glacier shown on a map of Greater London
Scientists revealed last month that the iceberg is moving again, as winds and ocean currents carry it northward

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.

West Antarctic glaciers release 2.16 billion tons of ice into the ocean each year due to climate change, study warns

One of the most frightening effects of global warming is rising sea levels, which could submerge hundreds of coastal cities underwater this century.

The main cause of sea level rise is the melting of glaciers – slowly moving masses of ice, found mainly at the Earth’s poles.

Unfortunately, scientists have identified a glacier in West Antarctica that is losing mass at an alarming level as the ice flows into the sea.

This photo shows Cadman Glacier before and after the collapse of its ice shelf – the part at the end of the glacier where the ice extends into the sea. The photo on the left was taken in February 2017; The right photo was taken earlier this month

Dubbed the Cadman Glacier, this river is releasing a whopping 2.16 billion tons of ice into the ocean every year due to climate change, researchers warn in a new study.

For this reason, its thickness steadily decreases at a rate of about 65 feet (20 m) per year—the equivalent of a five-story building.

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