Colossal Antarctic iceberg, five times larger than New York City, breaks free and drifts away from region
On November 24th, scientists from the Bristish Antarctic Survey (BAS) were astonished to observe an iceberg measuring around 4,000 square kilometers (more than twice the size of Greater London) drifting away from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The iceberg is not only massive in its area but also has a thickness of 400 m (about 1312.34 ft), which is higher than the London Shard – the tallest skyscraper in Europe with a height of 310m (about 1017.06 ft).
The iceberg is named ‘A23a’ and was first dislodged in 1986 from the Filchner Ice Shelf, after which it has remained grounded on the Weddell Sea floor. Now, after 35 years it has begun its meandering journey driven by ocean winds and currents towards the Southern Atlantic Ocean with a probability of grounding again at South Georgia Island. If the iceberg finds a home in the South Georgia Island, it could block feeding routes for millions of seals, penguins, and seabirds that live on the island, thus disrupting the island’s wildlife and ecosystems.
All icebergs go through a cycle of freezing, formation to withering away and melting over time. However, climate change, which warms ocean waters, has accelerated this process, causing large chunks of ice to float away and melt faster than usual, further increasing the global sea level. So even though it might have been time for A23a to melt away, it is a warning that we might have much larger iceberg calving events in the polar regions in the future, bringing devastating floods worldwide and sinking many coastal populations. If the Antarctic sheet ice melts, it could displace over 230 million people who currently live within three feet of the high tide line.
Climate change has indeed woken up the Antarctic ice giants, and we must be prepared.
Find out more about the global risks of Polar warming HERE.
Photo credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-1 imagery