Birth of a new ice giant reported in the Weddell Sea | Polarjournal
Here it is: Iceberg A76 from the Ronne Ice Shelf. At just under 170 km long and 25 km wide, the colossus has secretly risen to become what is currently the largest iceberg in the world. Since it is currently winter, recordings are only known from satellites. Image: Copernicus Sentinel-1 ESA

For many months, iceberg A68A kept the world on tenterhooks as the nearly 6,000 square kilometer iceberg drifted toward similarly sized South Georgia. But by now the former giant had completely broken apart and the world was focused on the next iceberg, A74, which had broken away from the Brunt Ice Shelf. But now the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the European Space Agency (ESA) report the birth of another, even larger iceberg, surprising but no less impressive.

According to ESA, the iceberg was discovered on May 13 by a scientist from the British Antarctic Survey on satellite images and confirmed by an analyst from the US National Ice Center of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration NOAA. According to experts, the iceberg has an extent of more than 4,320 square kilometers. It is about 170 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, ESA wrote in a press release today. This makes it the largest iceberg in the world at present.

The iceberg break-off site (yellow pin) is located at the western end of the Ronne Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea. This region lies at the foot of the Antarctic Peninsula. Iceberg A74 broke off on the other side of the Weddell Sea. Map: Michael Wenger, via Google Earth

The iceberg break-off site is located in the southwest corner of the Weddell Sea, at the west end of the Ronne Ice Shelf. It is currently winter in the region, which means that it is not possible to observe the ice giant on site. The newly formed giant snatched the title of “World’s Largest Iceberg” from iceberg A23, which lies on the other side of the Ronne-Filchner Shelf. However, this is more square and has a size of just under 4,000 square kilometres. However, it has been in this region for more than 30 years, as the iceberg rests on the seabed due to its size. Another iceberg that had recently made headlines, A74 lies at the other end of the Weddell Sea and broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf in February, an event that had long been expected. In the case of the A76 iceberg, the calving comes as a surprise.

The iceberg was discovered on images taken by the Sentinel-1 satellites of ESA’s Copernicus mission. Two satellites are orbiting over Antarctica, equipped with radar sensors and flying over the polar region. Thanks to their radar system, they can also take pictures through clouds and at night. Bild: ESA

The images that led to the discovery of the iceberg came from the Sentinel-1 satellites, which carry out Earth observations as part of ESA’s Copernicus mission. The two satellites orbit the earth at an altitude of 700 kilometres and measure land and oceans. Thanks to their C-band SAR radar, they also function in darkness and through clouds. Both are likely to be the case in the iceberg region at present.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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