NewsHistory is being made in Antarctica: the world's largest iceberg is on the move after 30 years

History is being made in Antarctica: the world's largest iceberg is on the move after 30 years

The largest iceberg in the world has moved after 30 years. Illustrative photo.
The largest iceberg in the world has moved after 30 years. Illustrative photo.
Images source: © Pixabay, X
5:37 PM EST, November 24, 2023

Remarkable history is unfolding in Antarctica as the world's largest iceberg, known as A23a, started moving for the first time in about four decades. Previously, this colossal iceberg was anchored to the ocean floor. Scientists are now attempting to piece together the factors contributing to its sudden mobility.

The colossal iceberg, A23a, made a significant mark in glaciology history when it broke away from the Antarctic coast in 1986. For over 30 years, it remained trapped at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, located off the coast of Antarctica.

The colossal iceberg is mobile after nearly 40 years of immobility

In the past year, the iceberg has gradually increased its pace and is nearing the edge of Antarctica's waters. Scientists have registered a rise in drift speed over recent months, resulting in the iceberg advancing towards the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is anticipated that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current will ensnare it soon.

What triggered the unexpected mobility of A23a? Dr. Andrew Fleming, a remote sensing connoisseur from the British Antarctic Survey Institute, suggests the melting of the iceberg, induced by shifts in shelf temperatures, as the probable cause.

"The mass has remained grounded since 1986, but at last, it has shrunk enough to lose its grip and begin moving," explains the expert in a conversation with the BBC.

According to the BBC, the colossal iceberg measures approximately 1312 feet thick. By comparison, the Shard in London, Europe's tallest skyscraper, stands slightly over 1017 feet tall. The iceberg spans almost 1544 square miles, which exceeds double the area of England's capital city.

Specialists express concern that A23a lodges in South Georgia could introduce a grave challenge to the region's indigenous fauna. It may disrupt established feeding routes for seals, penguins, and other sea birds that breed on the island.

The journey of the iceberg also yields some environmental benefits. Icebergs play a pivotal role in nourishing oceanic nutrients as they melt. Researchers will maintain a close vigil on the iceberg's subsequent journey, tracking any changes that could influence the ecosystem of Antarctica and beyond.

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