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Larsen C, an iceberg twice the size of Luxemburg had collapsed from Antarctic ice shelf

It finally broke off. The iceberg A68, twice the size of Luxemburg, is no longer part of Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, which could also collapse.

A huge iceberg – twice the size of Luxemburg – collapsed from the Larsen C ice shelf on 12 July, as expected by experts. Now it’s adrift in the Weddell Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean in the Antarctic area. The news was released by researchers of the Swansea University, Wales, which has been monitoring the phenomenon since 2014. The iceberg has been called A68 and is one of the largest ever observed, with a surface of more than 5,800 square kilometres, a thickness of 200 metres (of which 30 are above sea level) and a weight of 1 trillion tonnes.

The map of Antarctica is going to change

The new iceberg, which will lead to revise the world’s map, broke off the Larsen C ice shelf and has been photographed from the Santinel 1 satellite launched with the Copernicus programme promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission, as well as from the Aqua satellite of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Now the ice shelf is 12 per cent smaller than before the calving – reaching its lowest extent in 11,700 years.

Larsen C, Antartide
The ice shelf Larsen C, Antarctica

According to researchers the Larsen C ice shelf could now face the same tragic fate of the platforms Larsen A – collapsed in 1995 – and, most importantly, Larsen B – which disintegrated after a similar collapse. The iceberg could fragment in smaller pieces, some of which could move towards warmer waters.

L'iceberg alla fine si è staccato dalla penisola antartica, in particolare dalla piattaforma Larsen C
L’iceberg alla fine si è staccato dalla penisola antartica, in particolare dalla piattaforma Larsen C

Could Larsen C collapse?

“The calving of this large iceberg could be the first step of the collapse of Larsen C ice shelf, which would result in the disintegration of a huge area of ice into a number of icebergs and smaller fragments,” explained David Vaughan, a glaciologist and the director of science at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), in January. Even if the research is aimed to document the effects of global warming in Antarctica, the glaciologists of MIDAS (a British research project) claim this is a natural event that isn’t necessarily linked to human-driven global warming, but still could bring about a series of risks given the unstable nature of the ice shelf.

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