A giant piece of ice, weighting more than a trillion metric tons and about the size of the state of Delaware, just broke off of the Antarctic Peninsula. According to researchers this is one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded. So what does that mean for us?
As shocking as it is to many, this event didn't come as a surprise to scientists for two reasons. First, icebergs have been breaking away from ice shelves for many millions of years—part of the "natural life cycle" of any ice shelf. And second, experts have been monitoring this specific chunk of ice (called Larson C) since 2014 when a huge crack appeared, so they they've known this was coming for a while now.
Despite its size, this iceberg will not have an effect on sea levels because it was already floating in the water when it broke off. But it's still a big deal; the section was big enough that maps will have to be redrawn to account for the change.
If your first question is whether or not global warming is to blame, you're not alone. According to experts, there's no scientific confirmation yet that global warming caused the massive sheet of ice to dislodge. However, the remaining ice shelf is the smallest we've ever seen it, and it continues to shrink as temperatures get warmer. Many people think this could be a foreshadowing of how the Antarctic ice sheet might fall apart in the future as global temperatures continue to warm. Scientists are also concerned that this massive break will threaten two anchors (located near the site of the break) that are critical to holding the ice shelf where it is. And if the whole thing were to dislodge, it would definitely not be good.
According to researchers, this event is no reason to panic. But it is a stark reminder of the delicate balance of our environment and the very real consequences of global climate change.