A 5,800 km² iceberg broke free of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica yesterday. That's not a good thing:
“It is a really major event in terms of the size of the ice tablet that we’ve got now drifting away,” said Anna Hogg, an expert in satellite observations of glaciers from the University of Leeds.
At 5,800 sq km the new iceberg, expected to be dubbed A68, is half as big as the record-holding iceberg B-15 which split off from the Ross ice shelf in the year 2000, but it is nonetheless believed to be among the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.
But while the birth of the huge iceberg might look dramatic, experts say it will not itself result in sea level rises. “It’s like your ice cube in your gin and tonic – it is already floating and if it melts it doesn’t change the volume of water in the glass by very much at all,” said Hogg.
Now at the mercy of the ocean currents, the newly calved iceberg could last for decades, depending on whether it enters warmer waters or bumps into other icebergs or ice shelves.
The Larsen C calving yesterday wasn't necessarily caused by global warming, but it didn't help. Now we just wait and see if the entire Larsen C shelf goes into the ocean in the next few years. Meanwhile, be careful boating off Patagonia for the next few years.