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Giant crack releases huge iceberg in Antarctica

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An iceberg of more than 1,200 square kilometers has just separated from the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. A major crack had formed in the area in November 2020.

An expected calving

It is the size of the agglomeration of Paris. A huge iceberg broke off a few days ago from the Brunt Ice Shelf, a patch of ice from 150 meters thick located north of Antarctica. This calving was expected. Last November, a major crack (the third in ten years) had indeed taken shape on the Brun ice shelf. Since then, it had not ceased to develop.

The twelve researchers of the Halley VI station, located less than twenty kilometers from the rupture zone, had been evacuated in mid-February by plane, according to a communicated from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which operates the site. It was a simple precaution.

A priori, the structure should not be affected by this new calving. In 2016, the BAS had already moved the station about thirty kilometers inland to avoid two other major cracks in the sea ice.

The Halley VI research station positioned relative to the new crack (North Rift). Credit: British Antarctic Survey

Keep a close eye

This ice fracture, it can also be read, happened due to a natural process, not climate change. The piece of ice is nonetheless impressive, bordering on 1270 square kilometers.

“Although ruptures of large parts of the Antarctic Ice Shelf are quite normal, large calving events such as that detected on the Brunt Ice Shelf remain quite normal. rare and exciting ”, says Adrian Luckman, from the University of Swansea (Wales).

“Our job now is to keep a close eye on the situation and assess any potential impact of the current calving on the remaining pack ice.”, adds Simon Garrod, director of operations at BAS, in a statement. “Several scenarios are now possible for the months to come: either the iceberg will recede, or it will run aground and stay”, nearby, considers Jane Francis, director of BAS.

In the meantime, the researchers will not return until next summer, between January and March 2022.

Finally, remember that pieces of the former “largest iceberg in the world”, which broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017, continue to fracture off the coast of South Georgia, an isolated island in the south of the Atlantic Ocean. Two robots will soon be on site to analyze the water around the remains of the structure.


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