World's Largest Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica's Ronne Ice Shelf

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A-76, currently the world's largest iceberg, broke off from the Ronne Ice Shelf on May 13, 2021 (Credit: ESA)

Antarctica is surrounded by icebergs. However, the finger-shaped chunk of ice that recently broke loose from the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf — one of the world's most extensive ice platforms — is worthy of a mention. Measuring approximately 105 miles (170 km) long and 15 miles (25 km) wide, it boasts a surface area of 1,660 sq miles (4,300 sq km) and is currently the world's largest iceberg.

The massive chunk of ice floating in the Weddell Sea was first spotted on May 13, 2021, by Dr. Keith Makinson at the British Antarctic Survey and later confirmed by images captured by the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Sentinel-1A satellite. Since the iceberg is located in Antarctica's quadrant A — the Bellingshausen/Weddell Sea region — and is the 76th one named by the US National Ice Center scientists, it was called A-76.

The iceberg's calving was recorded by the ESA's Sentinel-1A satellite (Credit: ESA)

Researchers say that periodic calving of icebergs like A-76 is a part of an ice shelf's normal life span and most likely not related to climate change. They speculate that the massive chunk will drift through the South Atlantic for several years before breaking into smaller pieces and melting. Since the iceberg has already displaced the water it will add to the ocean as it melts, it will not contribute to rising sea levels.

Though A-76 is undoubtedly larger than the existing record-holder — a 1,540-sq-mile (4,000-sq-km) iceberg dubbed A-23A that is still floating in the Weddell Sea, it is not the biggest iceberg in recorded history. That honor goes to B-15, which measured 4,200 sq miles (11,000 sq km) — about the size of the island of Jamaica — when it broke off Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf in 2000.

Resources: ESA.int, Livescience.com, Guinnessworldrecords.com

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129 Comments
  • bigbookworm
    bigbookwormMonday, June 14, 2021 at 7:41 am
    OMGOSH!!!
    • lialol
      lialolMonday, June 14, 2021 at 4:24 am
      Oh my gosh , this is awesome I cant believe it broke off !!!!
      • owlfox
        owlfoxMonday, June 14, 2021 at 12:41 pm
        It is NOT awesome! It's so bad that this happened bc, WE humans, only care abt our selves! #stopglobalwarming!!
        • kev_ama
          kev_amaTuesday, June 15, 2021 at 9:26 am
          Literally says that its probably not due to global warming
      • owlfox
        owlfoxSunday, June 13, 2021 at 5:58 pm
        Aww poor penguins 🥺🐧, wishing u luck and a better future! Luv u Antarctic and Arctic animals♥️ #savethepolarbears
        • owlfox
          owlfoxSunday, June 13, 2021 at 5:40 pm
          #imhelpingstopglobalwarming (sry for the long hashtag lol)
          • owlfox
            owlfoxSunday, June 13, 2021 at 5:52 pm
            Now that i look back at it, I could've just said "#stopglobalwarming" lol (btw thank u sm for everyone who is following me it means so much to me and if u follow me I'll follow u back!) Hope everyone is doing well and staying safe!♥️
          • totallynot
            totallynotSunday, June 13, 2021 at 2:38 pm
            Wow, humans really need to stop climate change.
            • dragonov
              dragonovThursday, June 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm
              That's cool and all but we need to stop climate change. Imagine all the animals that might live there now have no home. #stopglobalwarming.
              • kirishima77
                kirishima77Monday, June 14, 2021 at 8:25 am
                There are no animals there. Animals can’t survive in Antarctica. Only a few bugs. It’s also likely not due to climate change.
                • wolfieland
                  wolfielandMonday, June 14, 2021 at 10:01 am
                  There are penguins in Antartica.
                • bigbookworm
                  bigbookwormMonday, June 14, 2021 at 7:41 am
                  YEAH!!
                • disneylover2
                  disneylover2Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 10:13 am
                  🙏 I hope all animals like polor bears are safe and were not on that iceberg
                  • wolfieland
                    wolfielandMonday, June 14, 2021 at 10:01 am
                    Polar bears don't live in Antartica.
                    • kirishima77
                      kirishima77Monday, June 14, 2021 at 8:26 am
                      Animals can’t survive there. Only a few bugs.
                      • wolfieland
                        wolfielandMonday, June 14, 2021 at 10:02 am
                        Penguins can. They feed off of fish. There are actually many more animals in Antartica.
                      • sweaterweather0
                        sweaterweather0Sunday, June 13, 2021 at 2:06 pm
                        Polar bears don't live in Antarctica 😕 😒
                      • jarrycloud
                        jarrycloudThursday, June 10, 2021 at 8:52 am
                        WOW! How long do you think it will take to melt? What year?
                        • dogsarethebest2
                          dogsarethebest2Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 8:20 am
                          I wonder how long it will take to melt? what year?
                          • cutezilla123
                            cutezilla123Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 6:47 am
                            It so big! This is fascinating.