A giant slab of ice bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca has sheared off the edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea to become the largest iceberg afloat, the European Space Agency said on Wednesday.
The newly calved berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, the space agency said in a statement posted on its website with a photo of the enormous, oblong ice sheet.
Its surface area spans 4,320sq km (1,668 sq miles) and measures 175km (106 miles) long by 25km wide.
By comparison, Spain’s tourist island of Majorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640sq km.
A-76, which broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, is now the largest iceberg on the planet, surpassing the now second-place A-23A, about 3,380sq km in size and also floating in the Weddell Sea.
Another massive Antarctic iceberg that had threatened a penguin-populated island off the southern tip of South America has since lost much of its mass and broken into pieces, scientists said earlier this year.
A-76 was first detected by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed by the Maryland-based US National Ice Center using imagery from Copernicus Sentinel-1, consisting of two polar-orbiting satellites.
The Ronne Ice Shelf near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the largest of several enormous floating sheets of ice that connect to the continent’s landmass and extend out into surrounding seas.
Periodic calving of large chunks of those shelves is part of a natural cycle, and the breaking off of A-76, which is likely to split into two or three pieces soon, is not linked to climate change, said Ted Scambos, a research glaciologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. – Reuters