Look: An Iceberg Twice the Size of NYC Just Broke Off Antarctica

The A-81 iceberg is the latest chunk to split from the Brunt Ice Shelf.

Samuel J Coe/Moment/Getty Images

NASA Earth Observatory/USGS

In January, an iceberg roughly twice the size of New York City split off from Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf.

It was a breakup almost a decade in the making.

Back in 2012, scientists noticed the first signs of activity in a dormant chasm in the ice.

NASA Earth Observatory/USGS

Here’s a satellite image from January 1986, well before the chasm cracked open.

NASA Earth Observatory/USGS

And here’s the Brunt Ice Shelf in 2019, when a prominent crack had nearly made its way across the region.

NASA Earth Observatory/USGS

Andrew Peacock/E+/Getty Images

Scientists knew that the day the shelf would split was drawing closer and closer.

But it wasn’t until January 22, 2023, that it finally happened.

That’s when a 600-square-mile iceberg, now dubbed A-81, calved into the sea.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2023), processed by ESA

This time lapse shows the progression of A-81’s separation, from 2019 to today.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021-23), processed by ESA

Another angle shows the region in October 2022 vs. last month when the iceberg separated.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2022-23), processed by ESA

Now, A-81 is making its way out to sea, as seen in this satellite image taken on January 25.

This isn’t the first time a giant chunk of ice fell off the Brunt Ice Shelf.

You might remember A-74, another massive iceberg that made headlines in 2021.

Samuel J Coe/Moment/Getty Images

A-74 was located a bit further north than A-81, and was about 110 square miles smaller than the new iceberg.


Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2023), processed by ESA

Though the Brunt Ice Shelf has seen a lot of breakage in recent years, researchers say it’s not out of the ordinary.

Mark Edward Harris/Photodisc/Getty Images

“This calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behaviour of the Brunt Ice Shelf. It is not linked to climate change.”

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