One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded just broke off from Antarctica

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded just broke off from Antarctica
This aerial photo released by NASA shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf on Nov. 10. John Sonntag/AP
This aerial photo released by NASA shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf on Nov. 10. John Sonntag/AP

A massive chunk of ice has split off from Antarctica and now enters the books as one of the biggest icebergs on record, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

The iceberg is roughly 2,300 square miles, making it nearly as big as Delaware. It split off from an area in Antarctica known as the Larsen C ice shelf, where scientists had been observing a growing rift in the ice for more than 10 years, the BBC reported.

The growth of the crack reportedly sped up starting in 2014, and, as Mic reported earlier in July, scientists had been preparing for a large iceberg to cleave off of the ice shelf as a result of the rift.

An aerial photo released by NASA shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf on Nov. 10.
An aerial photo released by NASA shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf on Nov. 10. John Sonntag/AP

A U.S. satellite noticed that the iceberg had split off from the shelf while it was passing over the area on Wednesday, the BBC reported. The newly created iceberg is likely one of the top ten largest ever recorded, according to the BBC.

With the loss of this new iceberg, the Larsen C shelf is now at its smallest size since the last ice age ended, around 11,700 years ago, the BBC reported. Nearby ice shelves have retreated, collapsed or disintegrated, likely due to a warming climate.

However, Chris Borstad, an associate professor of snow and ice physics at the University Centre in Svalbard, told the BBC that large icebergs can and do cleave off even when climate change isn’t a factor, and that it isn’t yet clear what caused this new iceberg to break off from Larsen C.

“At this stage we really don’t know whether there is some larger-scale process that might be weakening this zone, like ocean melting at the base of the shelf, or whether the current rift was just a random or episodic event that was bound to happen at some point,” Borstad said.

Experts will continue to monitor the iceberg, as winds and currents could move it northward, eventually putting it in the way of shipping routes, the BBC reported.

Correction: July 12, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the size of the iceberg that recently broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf. It is almost as big as Delaware.