A huge iceberg, not much bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca, has broken off from the Ronne Ice Shelf in Western Antarctica and is now floating in the Weddell Sea. The iceberg, known as A-76, is about 170 km long and 25 km wide and has an area of 4320 square kilometres. These numbers make it the world’s largest iceberg, snatching first place from iceberg A-23A (about 3880 sq km), which is also located in the Weddell Sea. In comparison, iceberg A-74, which broke off from the Brunt Ice Shelf earlier this year, was only 1270 square kilometres in size. The images of this huge floating ice island were captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite mission and then published on the ESA website.
Like all icebergs, A-76 was given its name based on the Antarctic quadrant from which it originated, to which a sequential number is added and, if the iceberg breaks up, a final letter.
The Ronne Ice Shelf, from which both A76 and A23A originated, is one of the most extensive floating ice sheets connected to the Antarctic land mass and stretching into the surrounding seas. The periodic detachment of large sections of such ice shelves is part of a natural life cycle of glaciers. However, the deterioration of some of these platforms has accelerated in recent years, a phenomenon that scientists believe is linked to climate change and CO2 emissions.
Click here to see an animation showing the iceberg breaking away from the Ronne Ice Shelf.