The world's largest iceberg is breaking

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The world’s largest iceberg has separated from Antarctica in July 2017 and is the largest floating ice block in Antarctica since then. This block of ice has been circling north with little loss of size, but now data and images from the European Union's Sentinel-1 satellite have shown that a considerable part of this iceberg has broken off from the large block.


The fragment is about 175 square kilometres and 19 kilometres long. In a statement to the BBC, researcher Adrian Luckman, from the University of Swansea, claimed that this could mean the beginning of the end of the great ice block called A-68 (the name given by the US National Ice Centre which divides Antarctica into quadrants).


"I am continually surprised that something so thin and fragile has lasted so long in the open ocean," Luckman said. "I suspect the final breakthrough is beginning, but the later fragments will probably be with us for years."


Professor Luckman has been monitoring the progress of the iceberg and states holds small chips everywhere responsible for the breakage. The expert has talked about it on his Twitter account:

The monstrous A-68 iceberg is approximately 5,100 square kilometres, as large as Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, and weighs one billion tons. For a closer comparison, the Community of Madrid is made up of 8,022 square kilometres and the island of Mallorca is 3,640 square kilometres. However, the A68 looks more like a giant credit card than a stereotypical iceberg you usually imagine.


The A-68 broke away from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017 and had remained floating in the cold waters without any change. Until now that is. On April 19, it dropped a sizeable chunk of about 175 square kilometres as it moved northward from the Antarctic Peninsula. It has entered harder and warmer waters, so it is crossing currents that should carry it towards the South Atlantic. Marking the path to its demise.

In 2017, the A-68 was about 6,000 square kilometres in area, and it didn't move very far for a few months. It was on average about 190 meters thick but slowly, the colossal iceberg began to move northward. Today, it has passed the South Orkney Islands that make up the far end of the Antarctic Peninsula and can continue to the South Sandwich Islands.

How long will the A-68 iceberg hold together?

Scientists are concerned that A-68 is now trapped by considerable movement stress, so further divisions or fragmentation of the parent iceberg cannot be ruled out in the coming months. Be that as it may, individual pieces of ice may still take many years to disappear.

Nomenclature

Specifically, the iceberg would be more correctly A-68A, because later breaks also have their own related name. A-68B broke off very early in the life of the main iceberg. And this new portion will surely get the designation A-68C.

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