An Iceberg The Size Of Sydney Just Broke Off Antarctica's Edge
Antarctica's 'loose tooth' is now bobbing around the ocean after an ice sheet the size of Sydney snapped off and floated out to sea.
The iceberg, nearly 1650 square kilometres in size, snapped off the Amery ice shelf last week.
Known officially as D-28, the iceberg measures some 50 kilometres in length by 30 kilometres in width -- that's the size of urban Sydney, according to scientists, who have been waiting two decades for this very moment.
“We first noticed a rift at the front of the ice shelf in the early 2000s,” said Professor Helen Amanda Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The Amery ice shelf is the third-largest in Antarctica and is right by major Australian research stations, named Davis and Mawson, about 4800 kilometres due south of Perth.
Scientists had called the area the "loose tooth" because it appeared to be "precariously attached" to the continent and likely to break off. However, the iceberg that actually snapped off came from a slightly different place than where experts had predicted.
"I am excited to see this calving event after all these years. 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," Professor Fricker said.
It is not believed that this event is linked to climate change, but is just part of the normal life cycle of ice shelves. This is the first major calving from the Amery shelf since the early 1960s.
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The Australian Antarctic Division has released incredible footage of the area where the iceberg left the coastline.
A drone captured the white ice cliffs vertical plunge into the freezing ocean and the continent's rugged icy outcrops, jagged cracks and fractures in the flat snow.
An incredible sunset bathes the white mass as the drone explores a deep fissure in the ice that falls to blackness below.
Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi, an Australian glaciologist, said the iceberg's calving won't raise sea levels, as the weight of the mass was already bobbing in the ocean.
"The calving will not directly affect sea level, because the ice shelf was already floating, much like an ice cube in a glass of water," he said.
"But 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."