A VAST iceberg that broke off Antarctica earlier this month could drift through the ocean for several years before it breaks up and melts away, a scientist from the European Space Agency said on Friday. The iceberg, dubbed A-76, is more than 40 times the size of Paris, or about 73 times as big as Manhattan, making it the largest currently afloat. It was first spotted by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed by the US National Ice Center using images taken by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 1A satellite.
Mark Drinkwater, a senior scientist at the space agency, said that while icebergs regularly calve from Antarctic ice shelfs, the region where A-76 broke off had seen relatively little change in recent decades. “It’s become a poster child, obviously, and there’ll be a lot of attention on it,” he said of the 4,320 square-kilometer (1,668 square-mile) floating island of ice. A-76 will eventually escape from the Weddel Sea around Antarctica and drift into the South Atlantic, but that journey could take years, Drinkwater said. “We’ve seen icebergs that can last up to 18 years that have been tracked around Antarctica if they remain in relatively cold waters,” he said.
“But it’s likely that once this thing gets ejected from the Weddel Sea out into the South Atlantic, it’ll disintegrate fairly quickly.” The even larger iceberg A-68 that calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017 disappeared by early this year. Drinkwater said, satellites have helped scientists keep track of the changes happening on the vast but largely uninhabited continent that would otherwise go unnoticed.