A huge iceberg the size of Sydney has broken away from east Antarctica, but scientists aren’t blaming the fracture on climate change.
The 1,636-square-kilometre iceberg ‘calved’ from the Amery Ice Shelf last week.
The huge rift, at an area dubbed the ‘loose tooth’, was first noticed at the front of the ice shelf in the early 2000s and has been closely monitored since.
“We don’t think this event is linked to climate change,” Scripps Institution of Oceanography Professor Helen Amanda Fricker said on Tuesday.
“It’s part of the ice shelf’s normal cycle, where we see major calving events every 60-to-70 years.”
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The last major iceberg to break off the Amery shelf, located between Australia’s Davis and Mawson research stations, was in late 1963 or early 1964.
Scientists expected the latest calving to be at a different spot.
“We knew it would happen eventually, but just to keep us all on our toes, it is not exactly where we expected it to be,” Prof Fricker said.
The new iceberg won’t impact sea levels, as it was already floating.
“Much like an ice cube in a glass of water,” Australian Antarctic Division Glaciologist Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi explained.
“What will be interesting to see is how the loss of this ice will influence the ocean melting under the remaining ice shelf and the speed at which the ice flows off the continent.”
Ice shelves are a floating extension of land ice and are formed by snow pushing out to the continent’s edge.