A Monstrosity 18 Times The Size Of Malta Has Been Spotted Floating In The Southern Ocean
Scarier than any story we've been told
A giant iceberg - one of the biggest in recorded history, actually - has broken off an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula and is now adrift in the Weddell Sea.
Swansea University's Project MIDAS, who have been observing and studying the ice shelf and the huge crack which has been developing for the last decade, said the calving occurred sometime between Monday 10th and Wednesday 12th July. And while it's been attributed to a natural process, increased concerns of global warming mean the iceberg's future is not so certain after all.
Trying to understand the sheer size of it all boggles the mind, but here are some statistics about the behemoth which has been called A68, and what that might mean to tiny Malta.
1. It has an area of 5,800 square kilometres
It's quite difficult to even imagine something that big; after all, we're talking about something four times the size of London, or a quarter the size of all of Wales. Or 18 times the size of tiny, 316 square kilometre Malta.
Yes, it's that big.
2. It's volume? Well, it's got a lot of zeroes
A68's volume is 277 cubic miles. If you had to convert that to litres you'd be looking at 958,700,000,000,000 litres. That's a lot of water... 463 Olympic-sized pools' worth, actually. And it's all ice. We're talking dwarfing cities like New York City and landmarks like the Grand Canyon.
3. It weighs a trillion tonnes (that's 12 zeroes)
How do we go about explaining just how heavy that is? Well, the iceberg weighs as much as 40,000,000,000,000 ċilindri tal-gass. That's one gas cylinder for every person in the world... for the next 500 years or so.
4. It could drastically raise sea levels
... but don't worry, that definitely won't happen yet.
The good news is the iceberg was already floating before it snapped off, so it will have no immediate impact on sea level.
The bad news is there are concerns that the Larsen C ice shelf could follow the example of the neighbouring Larsen B shelf, which had disintegrated in 2002 after a similar event. The entire shelf is now the smallest it's been since the end of the last Ice Age.
"In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse - opinions in the scientific community are divided," said Swansea University's Professor Adrian Luckman.
It the shelf does collapse (in the years or decades to come), sea levels could rise by around four inches, adding to the 11 to 38 inches which the global sea-level is estimated to rise by 2100. With 2.4 billion people living close enough to the coast to be impacted by this change, this can get very worrying very fast. And you guessed it; Malta is part of those billions.