Iceberg larger than New York City breaks off in Antarctica

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An iceberg 492 feet thick and covering 490 square miles broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday, according to a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) press release. The section, which is larger than New York City, was split by BAS near Halley Research Station, which was closed for the season earlier this month.

The research station is unlikely to be affected by the break. Researchers say the first indication of calving came last November when a rift known as the North Rift became active and broke towards a chasm known as Stancomb-Wills Glacier Tongue, nearly 23 miles away.

“The iceberg was formed when the crack widened several hundred meters in just a few hours on the morning of February 26 and detached it from the rest of the floating ice shelf,” BAS stated in a press release.

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Simon Garrod, Director of Operations at BAS, described the break as a “dynamic situation”. Three rifts have been discovered over the course of a decade, including the Halloween Rift and Abyss 1.

“Our job now is to keep an eye on the situation and evaluate the potential impact of the current calving on the remaining ice shelf,” Garrod said in a press release.


Brunt Ice Shelf – North Rift Overpass (February 16, 2021) by
British Antarctic Survey on
Youtube

Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, said the team had been preparing for such an event for years, monitoring the movements and deformations of the Brunt Ice Shelf, even when BAS is not at its Halley Research Station. The researchers only stay on the station during the summer, as the winter months are dark and cold, which makes observation difficult.

It’s everyone’s guess what the ice shelf will do next. “In the coming weeks or months, the iceberg may recede or run aground and stay near the Brunt Ice Shelf,” added Francis.



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