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A massive iceberg the size of Delaware has just broken off from the Larsen C ice shelf off western Antarctica and is now drifting in the Weddell Sea.

Larsen C Ice Shelf Breaks Off

The Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth largest in Antarctica, was long suspected to be on the verge of breaking off as hinted by an expanding deep crack.

On Wednesday morning, July 12, a massive iceberg was finally confirmed to have broken off after scientists looked at the area's latest satellite data. The Larsen C ice shelf is now 10 percent smaller as result of the split, an event that scientists said has altered the shape of the Antarctic peninsula.

A68 Iceberg

An iceberg is a large chunk of ice that breaks off from a snow-formed glacier or shelf, and floats in open water. Spanning 5,800 square kilometers, the new iceberg called A68, is half the size of iceberg B-15, which broke off from the Ross ice shelf in 2000. Scientists believe A68 is one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.

'Business As Usual'

Scientists are apparently not alarmed by the calving, which some claim to be a natural occurrence.

"I'm pretty sure that Antarctica won't be shedding a tear when it's gone because the continent loses plenty of its ice this way each year, and so it's really just business as usual," said Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University.

Martin Siegert, of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment, said that the calving does not necessarily mean that the ice shelf is about to disintegrate. He stressed that ice shelves naturally break up as they extend further out into the ocean and this is not the first massive iceberg that formed.

Although the Larsen C ice shelf continues to shed icebergs, some researchers say there is possibility that it may regrow. If the ice shelf suffers further calving, the collapse will not likely happen soon.

"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse — opinions in the scientific community are divided. Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away," said Adrian Luckman of Swansea University.

Will It Raise Sea Levels?

The melting of Antarctica raises worry of rise in global sea levels. Scientists, however, said that the new iceberg would not contribute to this rise just like when an ice cube melts in a glass of water. Anna Hogg, from the University of Leeds, explained that the ice cube already floats. If it melts, it does not significantly change the volume of the water in the glass.

News in Pictures

Polar stratospheric clouds, also known as nacreous clouds (or mother of pearl, due to its iridescence), are clouds in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000-25,000 meters (49,000-82,000 ft). Usually the clouds only form over the poles during winter because the air in the upper stratosphere needs to be at least -78C.

Spectacular polar stratospheric clouds captured over Peru

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