London (Agencies): Scientists have confirmed the release of the world’s largest iceberg A23a, measuring approximately three times the area of New York City. This colossal iceberg, covering 1,500 square miles (4,000 square km), broke away from the Antarctic coast in 1986, grounding itself in the Weddell Sea for 37 years. However, recent satellite imagery reveals the trillion-ton ice mass drifting north past the Antarctic Peninsula, propelled by strong winds and ocean currents.
Glaciologists find the movement of such a massive iceberg to be a rare phenomenon. Oliver Marsh of the British Antarctic Survey explained, “Over time it’s probably just thinned slightly and got that little bit of extra buoyancy that’s allowed it to lift off the ocean floor and get pushed by ocean currents.”
The reason behind A23a’s liberation from its long-standing position remains a mystery. Dr. Andrew Fleming suggests, “The consensus is the time had just come.” Despite being grounded since 1986, signs of the iceberg’s potential movement were noted in 2020.
A23a is expected to join the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, leading it towards ‘Iceberg Alley,’ where other large icebergs typically gather. However, scientists express concern that the colossal iceberg might re-ground itself off South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. Such an event could disrupt access for millions of seals, penguins, and seabirds relying on the area for breeding and hunting.
While A23a, like all icebergs, will eventually melt, its substantial size could prolong its existence in the Southern Ocean. Oliver Marsh warns, “It could make its way farther north up towards South Africa, where it could disrupt shipping.” The movement of this iceberg raises both scientific curiosity and concerns about potential environmental impacts.