An iceberg measuring 4220 square kilometers has broken off the Ronne Ice Shelf

Satsuki Then - May 21, 2021, 5:02am CDT
An iceberg measuring 4220 square kilometers has broken off the Ronne Ice Shelf

One of the Antarctic ice sheets is called the Ronne Ice Shelf and is located in the Weddell Sea. The European Space Agency (ESA) has reported that a gigantic iceberg has calved from the western side of the ice shelf. The iceberg has been dubbed A-76 and measures 4320 square kilometers in size, making it the largest iceberg in the world.

The massive iceberg was discovered in images taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. The iceberg is 170 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. The ESA points out that the massive iceberg has a larger surface area than the Spanish island of Majorca. Previously, the largest iceberg was A-23A, which is 3880 square kilometers in size and is also in the Weddell Sea.

This particular sea is home to another massive iceberg called A-74 that broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf in February of this year and measures 1270 square kilometers. The new iceberg was spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and later confirmed by the US National Ice Center using Copernicus Sentinel-1 imagery. The Sentinel-1 mission has a pair of polar-orbiting satellites that use C-band synthetic aperture radar imaging and can return images day or night, allowing year-round viewing of remote areas, such as Antarctica.

A series of images were put together to create an animation of the iceberg breaking off the ice shelf. Just prior to it separating from the shelf, there were visible lines showing cracks where the iceberg eventually separated. The ESA so far has made no claims as to what caused the massive iceberg to break away from the shelf.

The animated image can be seen here. One interesting thing about it is that it shows the ice in the ocean surrounding the edge of the ice shelf displaced over a vast area when the massive iceberg broke away. There’s no indication that the iceberg will pose any hazard to shipping lanes.

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