One of the most massive icebergs ever recorded broke off the Ross Ice Shelf on March 25, 2000. This huge berg measured 183 miles long by 23 miles wide. Now two more enormous bergs have been discovered to have broken off the shelf as well. On March 29, a berg 80 miles long by 12 miles wide separated from the shelf, followed by one measuring 4 by 11 miles on April 4th.
Whether or not the breakup will continue this season is unknown. The Austral autumn and winter are coming, and colder air temperatures are likely to stabilize the ice, at least until the next Austral summer.
These icebergs will move northward over the next two years, slowly melting and pouring millions of gallons of fresh water into the southern ocean, with unknown consequences to its ability to maintain the stability of key ocean currents that arise in the area. However, sea levels will not rise because shelf ice is already floating and its melting will not add to the water already in the ocean.
If the entire shelf disintegrates, it will mean that the glaciers that currently press against it as they flow toward the sea may become less stable and conceivably slide into the sea. This would cause a rise in sea levels from one to as much as three feet if area deglaciation was extensive. If all the Antarctic glaciers slid into the sea, the rise in levels would be much more dramatic, but this is not a likely event.
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