Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Certainly the changes that we see on ice shelves, such as thinning because of warmer ocean waters, are the sort [of changes] that are going to make it easier for these events to happen," Twila Moon of the U.S. National Ice and Snow Data Center said in an interview with the Guardian. (Photo: NASA)

'Maps Will Be Redrawn': Massive #ExxonKnew Iceberg Breaks From Antarctica

"The remaining shelf will be at its smallest ever known size. This is a big change."

"Good morning to everyone except the 100 companies responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988."
—Kate Aronoff, In These Times

One of the largest icebergs on record—weighing in at approximately one trillion tonnes and encompassing an area comparable in size to the state of Delaware—has finally broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, an event that has long been anticipated by scientists monitoring West Antarctica through satellite imagery.

"The calving occurred sometime between Monday 10th July and Wednesday 12th July 2017, when a 5,800 square km section of Larsen C finally broke away," Project Midas, a U.K.-based research group investigating the effects of climate change on Antarctic ice, reported on Wednesday.

In a statement, Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University—the lead investigator of Project Midas—said that he and his team will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg."

"The remaining shelf will be at its smallest ever known size," Luckman added. "This is a big change. Maps will need to be redrawn."

While scientists acknowledged that it is unclear whether this particular event was caused by a warming climate, they argued that it could be "a sign of changes to come."

"Certainly the changes that we see on ice shelves, such as thinning because of warmer ocean waters, are the sort [of changes] that are going to make it easier for these events to happen," Twila Moon of the U.S. National Ice and Snow Data Center said in an interview with the Guardian.

Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, echoed Moon's argument, noting in a statement: "This is likely a harbinger of the pace and size of future ice shelf breaks in the Antarctic Peninsula."

"It's concerning that the ocean and air temperatures around the Larsen C Ice Shelf are so warm," Ekwurzel concluded. "Ocean warming could affect other ice shelves in Antarctica that are holding back massive ice sheets. Scientists, aware of these processes, are likely to adjust sea level rise calculations, reflecting higher levels arriving sooner than now projected."

Anticipating the break-off, climate activists have in recent days insisted that the event should be tied to the activities of fossil fuel companies. As Common Dreams reported, 350.org has called on the U.S. National Ice Center to "name the Larsen C iceberg #ExxonKnew."

"With one of the world's biggest ice shelves at a breaking point, this destruction should bear the name of its greatest perpetrator: Exxon," Aaron Packard, 350.org's climate impact coordinator, said in a statement.

Following the news that the iceberg had finally split from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, commentators echoed Packard's remarks while using the event as an opportunity to slam President Donald Trump for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'Bolsonaro Out!': Massive Protests as Brazil's Covid-19 Death Toll Tops 500,000

"We are on the street to defend our country, our people, our lives, our culture, our education, our economy. We can no longer die of Covid."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·