Antarctica ice shelf is about to break free: here's what the iceberg will look like

Researchers and the public alike have been watching Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf since its massive cracking episode back in January. In the months since the start of the year, we've seen instances where the ice shelf has experienced extensive growth of the fissure that threatens to break it off entirely. According to the latest report from the European Space Agency, the ice shelf is now being held in place by only 3 miles of ice, meaning it could break away at any moment.

It is inevitable that this chunk of ice — which is about the size of the state of Delaware — will break free. Once that happens, this ice shelf will be notable as one of the largest icebergs to ever be set adrift. Though the calving event hasn't yet happened, the European Space Agency has done some calculating and has determined what the iceberg will look like once it happens.

Using the CryoSat, ESO has figured out that the soon-to-happen iceberg will have 1,155 cubic kilometers of ice, and it will measure about 190 meters / 623 feet thick. The portion of the iceberg that lies under the water's surface could have a depth as low as 210 meters / 689 feet. The GIF above shows what the chunk of ice will likely look like.

The massive size of this iceberg will necessitate monitoring in order to ensure it doesn't impact maritime traffic, according to the ESO; this tracking will be made possible in part via the CryoSat and the Sentinel-1 radar. The possibility remains that the iceberg may not break free as a solid piece of ice, though, instead fracturing into multiple smaller icebergs; its effects on people will depend on where the ice chunk(s) ends up.

SOURCE: European Space Agency