Iceberg A68a Releases Enough Water To Fill Over 60 Million Olympic-sized Pools

Iceberg A68a Melting Huge Amounts of Fresh Water Threatening Sea Level Rise

A new study found that iceberg A68a dumped 152 billion tons of fresh water near the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. A68a became the largest iceberg on Earth when it broke off the Larsen-C ice shelf in 2017. From there, it floated around the Wendell Sea and then the Drake Passage. Over the last three years, warm water has melted most of the iceberg and released enough water to fill over 60 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

NASA: Journey of Antarctica's A-68A - The Voyage of One of the Planet's Largest Icebergs, April 21, 2021.

Why This Matters

Ice sheets across the world continue to be at risk of collapse. A month ago, a report came out that indicated that the ice shelf currently preventing the Thwaites Glacier (aka the "Doomsday Glacier") from falling into the ocean could give way within 3-5 years. Meanwhile, the Arctic is set to see more rain than snow as early as 2060, which could destroy the region's ecosystem.

Anne Braakmann-Folgmann, a researcher at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling in the UK, said in a statement about A68a's massive melt:

This is a huge amount of meltwater, and the next thing we want to learn is whether it had a positive or negative impact on the ecosystem around South Georgia. Because A68a took a common route across the Drake Passage, we hope to learn more about icebergs taking a similar trajectory, and how they influence the polar oceans.

PBS: Melting of the Thwaites Glacier could rewrite the global coastline, December 15, 2021.

MSNBC: 'Doomsday Glacier' - Experts Raise Alarms About Cracking Antarctic Ice Shelf, December 30, 2021.

The Consequences of Sea Level Rise

Arctic and Antarctic ice melt like A68a's can raise sea levels across the world, putting island nations and coastlines in jeopardy. President Surangel Whipps Jr of the Republic of Palau wrote in an op-ed for TIME: our lives have been engulfed by sea-level rise for two decades."

Meanwhile, the UK's Environment Agency warned earlier this month that homes located in flood-prone coastal communities should be abandoned, given that they will become too expensive to maintain as the sea level continues to rise.

In his piece for TIME, Whipps Jr. also writes that richer nations should step in and redress the climate catastrophes they have inordinately contributed to: "Make 2022 a year of accountability, reciprocity and significant investments inadequate safeguards that ensure basic human rights for the world."

NowThis: How Melting Arctic Ice Affects the Earth, August 22, 2021.

WW0 COP26 Talks: Surangel Whipps, President of the Republic of Palau, November 3, 2021.

WW0 Conversation: Dr. Michalea King and John Kerry Instagram Live conversation streamed on 9/24/2020.