A humongous iceberg the size of Greater London has broken off an Antarctic ice shelf. This is the second such break in around two years, said researchers as they announced the latest event on Monday.
The break happened near the United Kingdom’s Antarctic-based Halley Research Station. However, as per glaciologists at the research station, the facility remains unaffected by the event.
21 members of the staff who are currently at the facility continue to maintain the base and operate its scientific instruments.
🔵 Iceberg at the Brunt Ice Shelf calving #Antarctica🇦🇶 #Copernicus🇪🇺 #Sentinel-3🛰️ 22 + 24 Jan 2023 Full-size ➡️ https://t.co/hsIfkhCvye + https://t.co/zKVKPeS0cz Images are about 144 km wide #scicomm #OpenData #RemoteSensing #BruntIceShelf ▶️ Still images in previous tweet 2/2 pic.twitter.com/GgZUyM9AEE— Pierre Markuse (@Pierre_Markuse) January 24, 2023
As per the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the chunk measures 1,550 square kilometres or 598 square miles. It detached from the 150-metre-thick Brunt Ice Shelf around a decade after scientists first spotted the crack known as Chasm-1.
Citing the research institute, Reuters reports that the iceberg calved “following years of naturally occurring cracks that finally extended across the shelf and caused the new iceberg to break free”.
“This calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behaviour of the Brunt Ice Shelf,” said BAS glaciologist Dominic Hodgson. “It is not linked to climate change,” he added.
As per Science Alert, in 2016-17, the Halley VI Research Station had to be relocated due to the widening of the Chasm-1. reportedly, at the time cracks started appearing in the ice, and this threatened to cut off the research facility. Since the relocation staff is deployed there during the Antarctic summer months between November and March. The rest of the year, when temperatures fall below minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) and it is dark for 24 hours, they operate remotely.
“Calving” is a natural process in which ice chunks from the edge of a glacier break off and are discharged into the ocean.
This is the second major calving incident in two years. Previously in May 2021, an iceberg four times the size of Abu Dhabi broke off from the Ronne Ice Shelf and fell into the ocean in Antarctica.