Rift along Larsen C ice shelf
Rift along Larsen C ice shelf Reuters

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has ripped free of an ice shelf in western Antarctica, researchers announced.

The iceberg is about the size of Delaware and weighs around 1.12 trillion tons. It covers more than 2,300 square miles and is on average more than 600 feet thick, scientists at University of Swansea in Britain said in a blog post.

"The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," Adrian Luckman, a professor and lead investigator with Swansea University, said. "It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."

The researchers also said that the ice shelf from which the iceberg broke off suffered a 12% reduction in size as a result of the “calving,” and that “the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula [has] changed forever” as a result.

“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,” Luckman said. “Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away.”

The researchers also said that a continued reduction in the area of the ice shelf could lead to smaller glaciers which sink and eventually raise sea levels - albeit “at a very modest rate.”