According to scientists of British Antarctic Survey, one of the biggest icebergs measuring 5,800 square km has broken away from Antarctica.
Ice shelves are extensions of ice sheets, are fed by their glaciers and jut hundreds of kilometres out to sea.
The iceberg weighing over one trillion tons has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf. Split off from the ice sheet from the area is known as calving.
The Larsen C ice shelf is more than 12% smaller in area than before the iceberg broke off – or “calved” – an event that researchers say has changed the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula and left the Larsen C ice shelf at its lowest extent ever recorded.
Following the collapse of the more northerly Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002, all eyes have turned to Larsen C.
The ice shelf has now decreased in size by 10 per cent, leaving the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded.
If the glaciers held in check by the iceberg now split into the Antarctic Ocean, it could lift the global water mark by about 10 centimetres (4 inches).
The iceberg, which is expected to be dubbed ‘A68’, is predicted to be one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.
The Larsen Ice Shelf is a long, fringing ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, extending along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula from Cape Longing to the area just southward of Hearst Island. It is named for Captain Carl Anton Larsen, the master of the Norwegian whaling vessel Jason, who sailed along the ice front as far as 68°10′ South during December 1893.
In finer detail, the Larsen Ice Shelf is a series of shelves that occupy (or occupied) distinct embayments along the coast. From north to south, the segments are called Larsen A (the smallest), Larsen B, and Larsen C (the largest) by researchers who work in the area.
Further south, Larsen D and the much smaller Larsen E, F and G are also named.
The breakup of the ice shelf since the mid 1990s has been widely reported, with the collapse of Larsen B in 2002 being particularly dramatic.
Big icebergs break off Antarctica naturally. The ice, however, is a part of the Antarctic peninsula that has warmed fast in recent decades.
Icebergs calving from Antarctica are a regular occurrence. But given its enormous size, the latest berg will be closely watched as it travels, for any potential risk to shipping traffic.