The topography of Antarctic iceberg A-76 provides insight into the strange properties of ice.
In terms of size, only one iceberg can reign supreme at a time—a position recently held by Iceberg A-76 in the Weddell Sea. When the berg calved from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf in May 2021, it became the largest iceberg floating anywhere in the world.
Antarctica’s ice shelves are famous for cutting loose some mammoth icebergs. The largest are usually tabular icebergs, named for their table-like shape with steep sides and large, flat tops. Iceberg A-76 represents a classic tabular iceberg, but as the elevation profile above shows, even this picture-perfect berg is not perfectly flat.
“Ice is a somewhat strange material,” said Ted Scambos, a research glaciologist at the University of Colorado. “We’re not used to its particular combination of strength, brittleness, and bendy-ness.”
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Image via NASA Earth Observatory