The largest iceberg on Earth is finally moving after being stuck on the ocean floor for 30 years. It is slowly drifting northward into the Southern Ocean, surprising experts who are unsure about the sudden movement after such a long period of inactivity.
The iceberg A23a broke away from the Antarctic coastline in 1986 and got stuck in the Weddell Sea, turning into a large ice island. This ice piece is massive, with an area that is over 1,500 square miles, making it larger than Greater London and four times the size of New York. It is incredibly thick, measuring 400 meters, or 1,300 feet.
While this makes it the “largest ice piece now bobbing in the world’s oceans”, it is “not the largest on record”, said New Scientist. “That behemoth, known as A-76, measured 4320 square km when it broke off from West Antarctica in 2021.”
The reason for its sudden movement is uncertain, but it is possible that over time, it may have become lighter and gained enough buoyancy to float and be carried by ocean currents. Although there are concerns about the ice behavior in Antarctica due to rising global temperatures, the escape of A23a is not believed to be caused by climate change.
The massive piece of ices is expected to enter the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and be guided towards the Southern Ocean, where it will join other similar icebergs in an area called ‘iceberg alley’. However, there is a risk of the iceberg fracturing and forming numerous smaller icebergs, which could pose a threat to ships and hinder access to islands for both animals and humans.
Reference- BBC, New Scientist, NASA, National Geographic, The Week