Danger in the Ocean: 270-Square-Mile Iceberg

Chunk of Antarctic ice could threaten shipping
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2013 12:33 AM CST
Updated Nov 16, 2013 1:04 PM CST
NASA’s DC-8 research plane flies across the crack forming across the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf in Antarctica, which ended up creating a new iceberg.   (AP Photo/NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Jefferson Beck)

(Newser) – A vast iceberg—described variously as Singapore-sized, bigger than Chicago, a quarter of the size of Rhode Island, or just really, really big—is drifting away from Antarctica and could find its way toward shipping lanes. The 270-square-mile chunk of ice cracked off the Pine Island Glacier in July, Antarctica's winter, but was iced in until a few days ago, the BBC reports. British researchers have been awarded an emergency grant to track its progress.

Giant icebergs break away from the glacier periodically and they end up either drifting east along Antarctica's coast or north toward busy Southern Ocean shipping lanes, the lead researcher explains. The Pine Island Glacier contributes more than any other glacier to rising sea levels, but scientists say this particular iceberg is not connected to the effects of climate change on the western Antarctic ice sheet. "At some point, it had to happen," a glaciologist tells the Australian. "It's a very normal process." (Click for another iceberg story that's less ominous and more amazing.)

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