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28th Nov 2023

Giant iceberg roughly the size of Tipperary is drifting for first time in 30 years

Simon Kelly

World's largest iceberg

It’s no Cork, but it’s big enough.

An iceberg, one of the world’s largest, has broken free and has gone into drift for the first time in over thirty years, according to scientists.

The giant iceberg measuring around 4000km2, which is roughly the size of county Tipperary (4305 km2) or around three times the size of New York City, has been stuck to the ocean floor the Weddell Sea for decades.

Now, according to the British Antarctic Survey, the mass known as A23a, has began moving once again, helped along by strong winds and currents.

Recent satellite images show that the iceberg, which weighs nearly a trillion metric tonnes, is now drifting quickly past the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

World’s largest iceberg on the move after thirty years

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Andrew Fleming, a remote sensing expert from the British Antarctic Survey, explained why the iceberg is suddenly on the move again.

“I asked a couple of colleagues about this, wondering if there was any possible change in shelf water temperatures that might have provoked it, but the consensus is the time had just come,” he said.

“It was grounded since 1986 but eventually it was going to decrease (in size) sufficiently to lose grip and start moving. I spotted first movement back in 2020.”

It is expected that A23a drift towards the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which will then put it on course to an area of the South Atlantic nicknamed “iceberg alley”.

It’s also a possibility that A23a could again become grounded at South Georgia island, which may become a problem for the millions of seals, penguins, and seabirds there, cutting off access to the surrounding waters.

However, as bergs melt, they are also beneficial to wildlife, as they release mineral dust into the surrounding area, which provides nutrients for certain low-food-chain organisms.

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