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Iceberg larger than New York City breaks off ice shelf in Antarctica

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 16:28:58-05

An iceberg larger than New York City has broken off an ice shelf in Antarctica.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said in a press release Friday that its scientists first detected vast cracks in the Brunt Ice Shelf nearly a decade ago.

In November, BAS says a new chasm indicated a “calving event” was imminent. Calving refers to glaciers splitting or shedding smaller masses of ice.

The new chasm was called the North Rift and it headed towards another large crack about 22 miles away. Throughout January, the rift pushed northeast up to .6 miles a day, BAS says.

“The iceberg was formed when the crack widened several hundred meters in a few hours on the morning of (Feb. 26), releasing it from the rest of floating ice shelf,” wrote BAS.

The iceberg measures about 490 square miles and officials say the ice shelf it broke off of is about 492 feet thick.

BAS’ Halley Research Station is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf, but its glaciologists say their station is unlikely to be affected by the calving. The 12-person team working at the station left mid-February and it’s now closed for the Antarctic winter.

“Over coming weeks or months, the iceberg may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf. Halley Station is located inland of all the active chasms, on the part of the ice shelf that remains connected to the continent. Our network of GPS instruments will give us early warning if the calving of this iceberg causes changes in the ice around our station,” said Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of BAS.