The ESA is monitoring the crack via space radar (a.k.a. the Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar pair) and says the 200-kilometre crack in the ice shelf has left only a five-km stretch connecting the iceberg to the shelf.
It could break off within days, or it could last for years.
“It’s keeping us all on tenterhooks,” Andrew Fleming, of the British Antarctic Survey, told Reuters.
The iceberg, called Larson C, is predicted to be 6,000 square-km big – that’s bigger than Prince Edward Island (which is 5,660 sq. km).
It is expected to be about 190-metres thick, with about 1155 cubic km of ice total.
While icebergs break off from Antartica (and the Arctic) all the time, scientists say this one needs to be monitored because it is so large.
Scientists say while it won’t have a major effect on sea levels, it could destabilize the Larson ice shelf.
It also could pose a threat to ships in the southern part of the ocean.
“We are not sure what will happen. It could, in fact, even calve in pieces or break up shortly after. Whole or in pieces, ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands. If so it could pose a hazard for ships in Drake Passage,” Anna Hogg from the University of Leeds said in a release.
Since big icebergs break off Antarctica naturally, scientists are not linking the rift to man-made climate change. The ice, however, is a part of the Antarctic peninsula that has warmed fast in recent decades.
In 2000, the biggest iceberg recorded broke off the Ross ice shelf and was about the size of Jamaica at 11,000 sq. km. Bits have lingered for years.
- With files from Reuters