NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Scientists say a vast iceberg has broken off from a key floating ice shelf in Antarctica.
Scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said Wednesday the iceberg broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf. The iceberg, which is likely to be named A68, is described as weighing 1.12 trillion tons or having twice the volume of Lake Erie.
It’s about as big as the state of Delaware.
The process, known as calving, occurred in the last few days. A crack in the peninsula had grown to 120 miles, about as long as Long Island.
“Scientists have been waiting for this to happen for a while because it started seven years ago at least, this break in the ice shelf,” Denton Ebel, chair of the division of physical sciences at the American Museum of Natural History, told 1010 WINS. “This is part of a natural process.”
Physics professor Michio Kaku said the breakaway iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded, prompting the redrawing of the map of Antarctica.
“Scientists believed that the west Antartica was stable for decades, centuries to come. Yet within our own lifetime, we’re seeing the gradual breakup of the South Pole,” he said.
Researchers are watching closely to see whether climate change is affecting the phenomenon.
“We’ve seen many events like this in the recent past,” Ebel said. “We’re not clear whether this is caused by the global warming that we know is happening, but it might be connected to that.”
“It looks as if natural cycles could have been involved,” Kaku said. “But the point is we have to look at the bigger picture, and that is the stability of the South Pole is now being called into question.”
Adrian Luckman of Swansea University said that researchers will continue to monitor “the fate of this huge iceberg.”
Ebel said it’s likely to break up into smaller pieces.
“It will take a very long time to actually melt into the ocean, these things are huge masses of ice,” he said. “Right now it’s extremely cold there.”
Researches say that since the ice was already floating — hanging off the continent — the new iceberg will not raise sea levels. The concern is over long-term consequences if the ice shelves begin to crumble.
“The ice sheets can then tumble into the oceans, and that would definitely begin the process of raising sea levels around the Earth,” Kaku said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)