Naffisa Adyan Fekranie

Apr 8, 2021

Should We Be Worried about the Giant Iceberg Breaking Off in Antarctica?

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A giant iceberg, approximately 7.5 times the size of Bandung City, broke off from the northern section of Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday 26th February.

Giant iceberg breaks off Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica

Source: The Europian Space Agency (ESA) [6]

Glaciologists have been closely monitoring multiple cracks that have formed in the Brunt Ice Shelf over the past few years, and the calving was already forecasted a few weeks before the incident [1].

However, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said there was no evidence that climate change played a significant role since icebergs naturally break off from Antarctica into the ocean [2].

Read also: Blue Carbon: The Role of Oceans as Carbon Sinks

But does this mean we don’t have to worry about it?

The calvings of icebergs do occur naturally and are very crucial to maintain ice shelf balance. However, uncontrolled human activities have contributed to the rise in total emissions, which have accelerated calvings.

Adding to that, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the largest contributors of global sea level rise. Right now, the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing four times faster than in 2003 and already contributes 20% of current sea level rise. How much and how quickly these Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt in the future will largely determine how much ocean levels rise in the future.

Iceberg in The Arctic Ocean

Source: Annie Sprat [7]

Scientists predict that if emissions were to continue rising, the Arctic could be ice-free by 2040 and this would have dire effects on global sea levels [3].

Although sea levels have fluctuated over Earth's 4.6-billion-year history, scientists point out that the rise of global sea level has deviated from the average rate of the past two to three thousand years [4].

Furthermore, rising sea level is not the only consequence. The melting of ice sheets also changes water temperature and salinity, which might affect the global ocean conveyor belt [5]. Scientists believe that the global ocean conveyor belt also balances the climate, so in other words, the melting of ice sheets will also disrupt weather patterns across the globe. Industries that thrive on fisheries will be affected as warmer waters change where and when fish spawn. Coastal communities will also be negatively affected as flooding becomes more frequent and intense.

Most importantly, wildlife such as polar bears and walrus are losing their home and possibly face extinction as ice continues to melt. So to answer the question, yes, all of us should be worried and ask ourselves, “How do we solve this?”

Read also: This Is How Microplastics Screw Our Wildlife (and Us Too)!