An iceberg almost the size of Greater London broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica on Sunday, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Scientists had noticed significant cracks in the ice shelf a decade ago, but in the past two years, two major breaks occurred.
The BAS Halley Research Station is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf, but glaciologists say it is safe. The iceberg is about 600 square miles, or 1550 square kilometers. Professor Dominic Hodgson, a BAS glaciologist, stated that the calving was expected and not caused by climate change.
The event comes amid record-low sea ice extent in Antarctica, where it is summer. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported in early January that the sea ice had not recovered from its low, indicating the continent could end the summer with a new record for the second year in a row.
The data center’s researchers say the low sea ice is due to a large band of warmer-than-normal air temperatures and strong winds. Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder and lead scientist at the data center, told CNN that Antarctica’s sea ice extent is highly variable and linked to the global warming trend, but not in the same way as the Arctic.
Satellite data from 1978 shows the region producing record-high sea ice extent as recently as 2014 and 2015, then suddenly plunging in 2016 and staying lower than average since.