SANTIAGO – The detachment of an iceberg from Chile’s Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park “could become a threat,” glacialist Ricardo Jaña of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (Inach) announced on Tuesday.
“Right now the ice is compact and whole, but it becomes a threat as it moves away and breaks up into smaller pieces,” Jaña said.
The detachment occurred this Monday on the front of the glacier at an area “relatively confined and fairly smooth” that measures 800 meters (2,623 feet) wide and is located on a rocky side known as “the island.”
“That’s where this iceberg of approximately 350 by 380 meters broke away,” the glacialist said, adding that it is “very much larger than normal.”
“This situation was expected, but the most singular and anecdotal thing about it is that it’s an iceberg of such enormous dimensions that we’ve really got to keep an eye on it,” he said.
The expert added that recent photos from last Nov. 2 showed a protuberance from the front that didn’t exist on either side.
A floating iceberg normally goes adrift, but given the dimensions of Grey Lake, which is 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and 9 kilometers wide, the iceberg could become an obstacle for shipping if it breaks apart in smaller pieces.
According to Jaña, a trend in regional warming of 2 C (36 F) every 100 years has been widely reported in scientific journals, and the ice is affected by that climate change.
“All glaciers that melt on continents are drained by lakes, rivers and the sea, where it raises the average sea level,” the Inach scientists said, recalling that in the past there have been times when the size of the icebergs and their dynamics have blocked the normal flow of shipping.