An iceberg twice the size of New York City broke off Antarctica this week — something scientists have predicted for four years.
The following is from NASA:
In February 2019, a rift spanning most of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica appeared ready to spawn an iceberg about twice the size of New York City. The question among scientists was not if the growing rift would finish traversing the shelf and break, but when? Now, nearly four years later, it has done just that.
According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the break occurred late on January 22, 2023, and produced a new iceberg with an area of 1550 square kilometers (about 600 square miles). The U.S. National Ice Center has named it Iceberg A-81.
The glacial ice in the shelf flows away from the interior of Antarctica and floats on the eastern Weddell Sea. (For reference, the Antarctic Peninsula and its ice shelves are located on the opposite side of the Weddell.) The shelf has long been home to the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station, where scientists study Earth, atmospheric, and space weather processes. BAS reported that the station, which was relocated farther inland in 2016 as the chasm widened, was unaffected by the recent break.
BAS glaciologist Professor Dominic Hodgson adds this important note:
“This calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behaviour of the Brunt Ice Shelf. It is not linked to climate change. Our science and operational teams continue to monitor the ice shelf in real-time to ensure it is safe, and to maintain the delivery of the science we undertake at Halley”.