Iceberg 3 times the size of Manhattan breaks off Antarctica

(USA Today) - A massive iceberg broke off Antarctica on Saturday, the latest piece of ice to leave the continent.

The U.S. National Ice Center measured the iceberg at 71.5 square miles, about three times the size of Manhattan. Previous media reports had the iceberg at over 100 square miles.

The iceberg is now in the Amundsen Sea but will eventually drift into Pine Island Bay, notes the Ice Center. The iceberg shows signs of fracturing, meaning smaller pieces of ice may break off. The Ice Center said it's not expected to cause any shipping hazards.

Chris Shuman of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said the break is part of a natural process, but the frequency of the breaks is concerning. Forces such as wind, tides, currents and even collisions with other icebergs can create rifts in the ice. Warm water moving underneath the glaciers causes the ice to thin and perhaps accelerates the rifts.

"The fact that the calving events have gotten a little more frequent is not a good sign," Shuman said. He adds there is no sign the trend is reversing.

The continuation, he said, means further ice losses to Antarctica and possible rising sea levels as a result.

The glacier, reports the Washington Post is a part of West Antarctica that already loses 45 billion tons of ice annually, contributing to sea level rises.  Pine Island Glacier, Gizmodo reports, is the "fastest-melting glacier in Antarctica."

The break comes two months after a 2,200 square-mile piece of ice detached from Antarctica in July. At nearly the size of Delaware, the iceberg was one of the largest ever recorded. In 2014, a 255-square-mile iceberg also calved from Antarctica.

At the time of the July iceberg break, Britsh researchers at Project MIDAS said there wasn't evidence tying the iceberg to climate change. Yet, warming oceans and temperatures have been widely accepted as causes of other examples of deteriorating ice shelves.

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