A large iceberg has broken off from the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica, said the European Space Agency on Wednesday. Dubbed A-76, it is around 4,320 square km in size, making it the largest iceberg in the world.
The iceberg, located in the Weddell Sea, is measured around 170 km in length and 25 km in width and is bigger than Majorca, a Spanish island. Majorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, occupies an area of 3,640 square km, reported Reuters.
The iceberg was spotted by the British Antarctic Survey’s Keith Makinson and confirmed by the United States National Ice Center using imagery from Sentinel-1, a US space programme.
The European Space Agency said that A-76 was larger than the A-23A iceberg, which was located in the Weddell Sea. But, A-23A measured only 1,270 square km.
A-23A had broken off last year from Antarctica. Scientists had feared that the iceberg would collide with an island that is a breeding ground for penguins and sea lions, reported Bloomberg. However, it broke up into pieces instead.
The Antarctica ice sheet is warming faster than the rest of the world, resulting in the melting of snow and retreating of glaciers, especially around the Weddell Sea. As glaciers retreat, which means that they do not extend as far as they did earlier, chunks of ice break off and float away.
However, a research glaciologist at the University of Colorado told Reuters that the breaking off of A-76 was not linked to climate change. The glaciologist, Ted Scambos, said that periodic calving of large chunks of ice shelves such as Ronne and Ross was part of a natural cycle.
Scambos added that since the ice was already floating, its breaking off will not lead to an increase in the ice levels.
Average sea levels have risen about nine inches since 1880. Around one-fourth of the rise comes from the ice melting in the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, along with land-based glaciers elsewhere, reported Bloomberg, citing a study published in the Nature journal in May.
The study, conducted by 84 scientists from 15 countries, showed that the goals set by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emission were not enough to stop sea levels from rising.