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A gigantic iceberg, bigger than the state of Rhode Island, has broken off of Antarctica.
The iceberg sized chunk of ice is shaped like a giant contorted surfboard, and is roughly 105 miles (170 kilometers) long and 15 miles (25 kilometers) wide.
It was spotted by satellites as it calved from the western side of Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, according to the European Space Agency.
The iceberg is now floating freely on the Weddell Sea, a large bay in the western Antarctic where explorer Ernest Shackleton once lost his ship, the Endurance, to pack ice.
The 1,667-square-mile (4,320 square kilometers) iceberg—which now the world’s biggest and has been called A-76, after the Antarctic quadrant where it was first spotted—was captured by the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinel, a two-satellite constellation that orbits Earth’s poles.
Iceberg calving is part of the natural cycle, with huge chunks of ice breaking off the ice shelf at regular intervals. Scientists aren’t attributing this particular break-off to climate change, and instead believe it’s part of the natural cycle of iceberg calving in the region.
Once it melts, the new iceberg will not lead to a sea level rise, because it was part of a floating ice shelf — just like a melting ice cube doesn’t increase the level of the drink in your glass.
That makes icebergs like this different from glaciers or ice sheets, which are found on land, and which do raise global sea levels when they break off into the ocean and melt. If Antarctica’s entire ice sheet were to melt, it could raise sea levels by nearly 190 feet.
Interesting stuff happening in the oceans and Antarctica.