Iceberg with an area five times the size of Malta breaks away from Antarctica

The British Antarctic Survey announced the formation of a new huge Antarctic iceberg. It broke away from the Brunt ice shelf on January 22, 2022.

Satellite images showing the birth of iceberg A-81. Source: ESA

The newborn iceberg received the designation A-81. Its thickness is 150 meters and its area is 1,550 km2. This is almost five times more than the area of the island of Malta. The European Sentinel-2 satellite has already photographed an iceberg, so far drifting off the Antarctic coast in the Weddell Sea.

It was worth noting that the birth of the A-81 was a long-awaited event. Back in 2012, scientists began to observe a crack in the Brunt Ice Shelf, which received the designation Chasm 1. It gradually increased, and then, in 2016, a new crack appeared in the glacier, which was called the Halloween crack. Because of this, scientists had to move the Halley VI research station located on the Brunt Ice Shelf to a safer place.

In the following years, the cracks in the Brunt Ice Shelf continued to grow. And so, on January 22, 2023, they joined, which led to the formation of A-81. The further fate of the iceberg may follow several different scenarios. It can stay in shallow water off the Antarctic coast. There were cases when icebergs that broke away from the ice shelves spent several years there. But the currents can also take it out to the open sea. In this case, the A-81 will quickly disintegrate into smaller fragments, which will then melt.

The largest icebergs that broke off from Antarctica in recent years. Source: ESA

This is not the first time that large icebergs have been separated from the Brunt Ice Shelf. So, in February 2021, a fragment with an area of 1270 km2 separated from it. And since the Halloween Crack will continue to increase, the glacier will continue to break down in the future.

Earlier we told that satellites photographed Antarctic icebergs in the same places where Captain Cook saw them

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