How big is the iceberg that broke off Antarctica?

Did you know that a giant iceberg, more than twice the size of Mumbai, broke off from Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf late in February 2021? It wasn’t entirely unexpected as scientists with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) were expecting it for years.

How did it form?

The “North Rift crack, as it is called, is the third major chasm in the last decade to tear across the Brunt ice Shelf (an ice shelf is a large floating platform of ice that forms when a glacier flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface). After a major crack formed on the shelf in November 2020, it continued to grow until the iceberg broke off in dramatic fashion on February 26.

Even though such a breaking off is entirely normal and part of how the Antarctic ice shelves work, the North Rift is rather special owing to its size. This iceberg, in fact, has an estimated size of about 1,270, more than twice the size of even a huge city like Mumbai (603.4

Glacier vs iceberg

When large pieces of ice breaks off a glacier, ice calving, or iceberg or glacier calving, takes place. Thus, while glaciers are huge masses of ice that move slowly over landforms, an iceberg refers to the pieces of ice that have broken off either from glaciers or ice shelves and are now floating in open water.

According to a BAS statement, this ice split likely happened due to a natural process and there is no evidence suggesting that climate change had a role to play.

Glaciological structure of this vast floating ice shelf, however, is very complex and predicting the impact of such calving events is rather difficult.


Picture Credit : Google

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