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Posted: July 12, 2017

Iceberg the size of Delaware breaks from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf -- 5 things to know

Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
An arched iceberg is pictured floating off the Western Antarctic peninsula in the Southern Ocean. Scientists are monitoring a crack in one of the continent’s ice shelves that’s expected to break off any day now, forming one of the world’s largest iceberg’s when it does. 

By Fiza Pirani, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A massive iceberg the size of Delaware or Lake Ontario broke from Antarctica’s massive Larsen C ice shelf between Monday and Wednesday, scientists announced Wednesday

The iceberg is one of the world’s largest icebergs in the Southern Ocean.

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The European Space Agency (ESA) issued a press release Wednesday, announcing the “behemoth” iceberg, expected to be named A68, finally broke off, “changing the outline of the Antarctic Peninsula forever.” The event, witnessed by ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission satellite, is part of a natural cycle of iceberg calving.

Here are 7 things to know about the cracking Larsen C ice shelf:

1. What is it?

Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf is one of the largest ice shelves in the region, spanning approximately 21,000 square miles.

But in recent years, the ice shelf has experienced a rapid rift growth widening to more than 1,000 feet.

In June, satellite images from the Impact of Melt on Ice Shelf Dynamics and Stability Project (or Project MIDAS) showed the shelf’s rift split turned north and had begun making its way toward the Southern Ocean.

» RELATED: Huge iceberg in Newfoundland drawing large crowds 

2. How big was the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf?

The deep crack extended over the course of 120 miles and, according to the ESA, only three miles separated the Larsen C crack from open water one week ago.

3. When did the ice shelf calve and give way to the colossal iceberg?

In June, Project MIDAS experts said the iceberg’s outer end was moving at its highest speed ever.

The massive iceberg officially broke off between Monday and Wednesday, witnessed by the ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellite, which provided a high-resolution look at its breaking from the Larsen C ice shelf.

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4. How big is the Larsen C iceberg?

The 2,200-square mile iceberg weighs 1 trillion tons (twice the volume of Lake Erie) and is nearly the size of Delaware.

From ClimateCentral.org last week:

The iceberg is expected to have enough ice to fill more than 463 million Olympic swimming pools. Or put another way, it’s enough to cover all 50 states in 4.6 inches of ice, allowing you to skate coast-to-coast and take victory laps around Hawaii and Alaska.

5. Where is the iceberg going after breaking off?

The iceberg will begin in the Southern Ocean’s Weddell Sea and escape its shallow waters as it heads into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (or into the South Atlantic).

But whole or in pieces, the iceberg could reach as far as the Falkland Islands, more than 1,000 miles away from the Larsen C ice shelf, according to the ESA.

Read more at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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