An enormous iceberg that weighs over a trillion tons and has a volume twice as large as Lake Erie has detached from a floating ice shelf in Antarctica, climate scientists revealed on Wednesday, capping months of speculation as to when exactly the break would occur.
Researchers at the University of Swansea in the UK announced that the massive chunk of ice weighing approximately 1.12 trillion tons broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf as part of a process known as calving, the Associated Press reported. The iceberg has a staggering surface area of 2,240 square miles.
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice,” said Adrian Luckman of Swansea University. “We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.”
While some environmental advocates were quick to label the event as a yet another indicator of man-made global warming, Swansea glaciologist Martin O’Leary confirmed that it was a natural occurrence with no ties to human activity. Regardless of the cause, he warned, the ice shelf is now in a “vulnerable position.”
The rift’s progress was documented by a joint effort from NASA and European Space Agency Satellites, which provided scientists with high-definition pictures of the break. It was preceded in detaching from Antarctica by the Larsen A shelf in 1995 and the Larsen B shelf in 2002.
Sea levels are not expected to rise in the short term, with scientists predicting that the iceberg will break into fragments. Some chunks are expected to remain close by while others may move northwards into warmer waters.