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Here’s the size of the huge new Antarctic iceberg compared to SF

Size matters

A white field of snow and ice coming up to a blue sea in Antarctica.
The Larsen Shelf.
Ben Holt, NASA

Last week, a chunk of ice 277 cubic miles in volume broke off of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, becoming an iceberg of more than mammoth proportions.

How big is that really? Well, NASA estimates that it’s some 2,200 square miles in area. To put that in perspective using Bay Area geography, it’s about 46 times the size of San Francisco.

(Presuming San Francisco is roughly 47 miles square, a point not everyone agrees on.)

It’s also more than 2.5 times the size of Alameda County. And 1.6 times the size of Santa Clara County, and than 1.24 times the size of Sonoma County. For that matter, it’s bigger than the entire San Francisco Bay itself.

But perhaps some even bigger perspective is needed. SpareFoot, an Austin-based company that provides storage space listings, sat down to play around with some maps on its blog and found that if it were dropped on top of us, the Larcen C chunk would stretch all the way from Santa Cruz in the south nearly to Yountville (just north of Vacaville) in the north.

The new iceberg is about 10 percent of the previous mass of the platform. Larsen C is just part of the larger Larsen Ice Shelf, named for Norwegian explorer Carl Larsen.

According to NASA:

Larsen C, a floating platform of glacial ice on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, is the fourth-largest ice shelf on the coast of Antarctica. In 2014, a crack that had been slowly growing in the ice shelf for decades suddenly turned northward and accelerated, creating today’s iceberg.

It’s perfectly normal for ice shelves to break apart and form icebergs of potentially massive size. According to National Geographic, researchers noticed the crack that caused this recent split back in 1960.

But even though climate change is not the cause of such breaks, it’s probably speeding them up.

“The Peninsula as a whole is losing mass, it has been doing that for many, many decades, but more so now than 30-40 years ago,” a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena told Climate Central.

Larsen C in late 2016.
John Sontagg, NASA