World's Largest Iceberg Shown Breaking Away From Antarctic Ice Shelf In Satellite Images


Jack Dunhill

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

clockMay 20 2021, 15:41 UTC

A-76 separating from the Ronne Ice Shelf. Image Credit: European Space Agency

A massive iceberg of 4,320 square kilometers (1,668 square miles) has sheared off Antarctica's edge, making it the largest iceberg in the world. The massive chunk of solid ice is now drifting into the Weddell Sea, according to the European Space Agency, and incredible satellite photos are showing off its sheer size from the moment it broke away. 

A-76, the new berg, overtook its’ predecessor A-23A as the largest iceberg in the world, packing 460 square kilometers (177.6 square miles) more surface area than A-23A, which also floats much further out into the Weddell Sea. It now floats with an area of around four times the size of New York City. 


The satellite images were made possible by a series of polar-orbiting satellites called Sentinel-1, which monitor environmental data and assist in emergency response.  

“The iceberg was spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and confirmed from the US National Ice Center using Copernicus Sentinel-1 imagery,” states ESA in a press release

“The Sentinel-1 mission consists of two polar-orbiting satellites that rely on C-band synthetic aperture radar imaging, returning data regardless of whether it is day or night, allowing us year-round viewing of remote regions like Antarctica.”  

Credit to first spotting the berg goes to Keith Makinson, polar oceanographer and drilling engineer at the British Antarctic Survey. Keith posted an image of the iceberg breaking away from the Ronne Ice Shelf on May 13, and it has since been named the largest of its kind. 


Icebergs shearing from the sides of ice shelves is a standard process of nature, and at this time scientists are not attributing it to climate change. Sea levels are not altered by ice shelf shearing, and the berg will live its new life out in the open sea.



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