The satellite image took a hiatus, which occurred about 10 years after satellite observations detected growth in a previously dormant fissure known as Chasm-1, and nearly two years after a slightly smaller glacier called A74 split from the same ice shelf. A gap is a break in an ice shelf that extends all the way from the surface to the ocean floor, while an ice shelf is a piece of ice that floats from the ice that forms on land.
Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote in an email that while the iceberg “is a huge mass of ice, about 500 billion tons … it is far from the largest iceberg ever seen, which rivaled Long Island.”
The spawning event is not expected to affect BAS’s Halley Research Station, which was moved inland in 2016 as a precaution after Chasm-1 began growing.
However, “the new fracture lays the foundation for about 10 kilometers of the sea, and a new fracture may occur in the next few years, forcing another expensive movement of the station,” Scambos wrote. The new iceberg is expected to follow the same route as the A74 in the Weddell Sea and will be called the US National Ice Center.
Unlike other former icebergs and ice shelves that have collapsed that have been linked to climate change, the BAS news release said the break is “a natural process” and there is “no evidence that climate change has played a significant role.”
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Instead, the gap began to grow due to “growing pressure … due to the natural growth of the ice shelf,” said Hilmar Gudmundsson, a glaciology researcher at Northumbria University, in a 2019 BBC story.
Scambos compares the birth of an iceberg to a chisel on a wooden board. “In this case the cheese was a small island called ‘MacDonald Ice Rise,'” Scambos wrote. “Ice was driven into this rocky sea by ice flow, which forced it to break apart and eventually break the floating ice shelf.”
“These giant icebergs, sometimes as big as a small country, are amazing. “But they are just part of how the Antarctic ice sheet works,” said Scambos. “A lot of times they have nothing to do with climate change.”