The giant chunk of ice, three times the size of New York City, is moving for the first time in decades
An iceberg roughly three times the size of New York City has broken off the ocean floor and begun drifting north toward what’s called “Iceberg Alley,” scientists report.
The iceberg, called A23a, is the largest in the world at a massive 1,500 square miles (4,000 square kilometers). It broke off from the Antarctic coast in 1986, but soon settled in the Weddell Sea, effectively turning the region into a giant ice island.
However, after remaining in place for about 37 years, scientists confirmed on Friday that satellite images showed a large block of ice weighing one trillion tons drifting north past the Antarctic Peninsula, buoyed by strong winds and ocean currents.
An iceberg of this size on the move is a rare sight for glaciologists. “Over time, it probably became a little weaker and gained a little extra buoyancy that allowed it to rise off the ocean floor and get pushed by ocean currents.” Oliver Marsh of the British Antarctic Survey said, according to Reuters.
Why exactly the “mountain”, the oldest sheet of ice on the planet, was shaken from its moorings remains a mystery, for now at least. “The consensus is that it’s just time.” Dr Andrew Fleming, Marsh’s colleague, told the BBC.
“It had been mothballed since 1986 but eventually it would have decreased enough (in size) to lose its grip and start moving.” Fleming said, adding that he noticed telltale signs of the impending trip in 2020.
Like most icebergs in the region, A23a is very likely to maneuver in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which in turn will take it toward “Iceberg Alley,” where many of its peers congregate in dark waters — like the one that collided in 1912 with the Titanic and led to It sank with the loss of 1,517 lives.
However, scientists fear that the giant iceberg could once again settle off South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic, potentially wreaking havoc on Antarctic wildlife by cutting off access to millions of seals, penguins and seabirds that use the area. For breeding or hunting. food.
Like all icebergs, A23a’s ultimate fate is to melt into nothingness, but a giant like this could take a long time to do so, which could cause more headaches in the future.
“An iceberg of this size has the potential to survive for a long time in the Southern Ocean even though it is much warmer.” Marsh told Reuters. “It could reach even further north towards South Africa, where it could disrupt shipping.”
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