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Trillion-ton iceberg breaks off from Antarctic ice shelf

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
July 12, 2017, 1:44:04 PM EDT

A massive iceberg that’s twice the volume of Lake Erie has completely separated from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, researchers announced Wednesday.

In a blog post from Project Midas, a UK-based Antarctic research project that has been investigating the warming climate and its effect on the Larsen C ice shelf in West Antarctica, researchers said NASA satellite imagery has confirmed that the iceberg had calved sometime between Monday, July 10, and Wednesday, July 12.

The process of calving occurs when a large mass of ice breaks off from the end of a glacier.

antarctic ice shelf

This Nov. 10, 2016 aerial photo released by NASA, shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. A vast iceberg with twice the volume of Lake Erie has broken off from a key floating ice shelf in Antarctica, scientists said Wednesday July 12, 2017 . (John Sonntag/NASA via AP)

The iceberg is likely to be named A68 and is said to weigh more than 1 trillion tons and cover 5,800 square kilometers (2,240 square miles). The iceberg is one of the biggest ever recorded and is also said to be roughly the size of Delaware.

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This event was months in the making, according to Adrian Luckman, a professor with Swansea University in the U.K.. He said in a statement that they were surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final kilometers of ice. 

Luckman added that the research team will continue to monitor the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments," he said.

Before the iceberg calved this week, rapid advances in the rift in the ice shelf were reported in January, May and June.

The team at Project Midas will continue to study the recent calving and its effects on the Antarctic region. However, the cause has not been attributed to climate change.

“Although this is a natural event and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position, said Dr. Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

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