What is probably the largest iceberg ever recorded has broken off of the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. The berg is roughly twice the size of the state of Delaware. The break has occurred during the latter part of the Antarctic summer. Because the Ross Ice Shelf is floating, the new iceberg will not raise sea levels. However, there are major glaciers behind the shelf, which, if they were to slide into the ocean, would result in a significant increase in sea levels of six inches to three feet. These increases would take place worldwide over a period of about sixty days and, in the worst case, would flood numerous islands and low-lying areas, including many that are heavily populated. However, there would be sufficient warning that such an inundation would cause more property damage than loss of life. The real danger would come if additional glaciers began entering the oceans, and sea levels continued to rise.

While the appearance of an iceberg of these dimensions is no indication that the glaciers are going to move, the ice shelves act as ‘plugs’ that hold the continental ice in place. Any weakening of the ice shelves has the potential to cause the glaciers to become less stable. For more information:

www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/iceberg.html

uwamrc.ssec.wisc.edu/amrc/iceberg.html

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