A gigantic iceberg that broke off an Antarctic shelf earlier this week has been identified by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the world’s largest. The previous title of “largest iceberg” was held by an iceberg almost 1,500-square-mile large.
The iceberg has been given the designation of A-76. It has been recorded to be larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, more than 40 times the size of Paris and 73 times as big as Manhattan.
A-76, named for the quadrant in which it was first located, was first found by researchers using the ESA’s Sentinel 1A satellite at the British Antarctic Survey.
It was also confirmed by the U.S. National Ice Center (USNIC), which tracks and names Antarctic icebergs that are at least 10 nautical miles long or 20 square nautical miles large.
Relive the birth of the #A76 iceberg with this stunning animation!
A-76 is currently the biggest iceberg in the world😱 pic.twitter.com/h97PbYdo0y
— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA_EO) May 20, 2021
The 1,668 square-mile ice mass split from the Ronne Ice Shelf into the Weddell Sea and is anticipated to eventually drift into the South Atlantic where it should disintegrate.
LiveScience concluded that the global event should not directly impact any sea levels at the time of disintegration.
While ice shelves pretty regularly lose ice, scientists tie worryingly rapid loss to the impacts of a warming climate.
A University of Leeds study from January reported that the rate at which ice is disappearing has increased markedly.
Scientists reported an increase of 0.8 trillion tons per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tons per year by 2017.
A January paper published in the journal Science Advances found that ice losses have soared from 760 billion tons annually in the 1990s to more than 1.2 trillion tons in the 2010s.
Another big iceberg calving event in #Antarctica! #A76 has calved from the Ronne Ice Shelf and is currently the biggest iceberg in the world, taking the record from neighbouring A23a. Quick image from @sentinel_hub showing #Sentinel1 imagery from today (14th). pic.twitter.com/tdbh9FGqc7
— Laura Gerrish (@laura_gerrish) May 14, 2021
“Parts of Antarctica are in arrears, and that’s largely a consequence of increase in temperature or large calving events that have removed ice and destabilized the ice shelves themselves,” ESA senior scientist Mark Drinkwater told The Associated Press. “Climate is responsible for these changes. And over the longer term, of course, it will have wide-ranging impacts in different locations around Antarctica.”
“A76 and A74 are both just part of natural cycles on ice shelves that hadn’t calved anything big for decades,” British Antarctic Survey’s Laura Gerrish tweeted on May 14. “It’s important to monitor the frequency of all iceberg calving, but these are all expected for now.”