On December 3, 2014, satellite images revealed a large iceberg – measuring about 165 square kilometers (64 square miles) – east of the southern tip of South America in the South Atlantic Ocean. This iceberg doesn’t meet the criteria for tracking or naming. NASA Earth Observatory said:
Only icebergs that have a side measuring at least 19 kilometers (12 miles) long are named and tracked by the U.S. National Ice Center. That means nearly round or square icebergs—like the one pictured above—can be quite large and still not meet the criteria for naming and tracking.
But it’s still a big iceberg and so interesting. Icebergs such as this one break off from Antarctica, but scientists aren’t sure exactly where on the continent this one broke away.
In that way, it’s different from iceberg B31, a much bigger iceberg, which broke away from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in late 2013 and has been hugging the Antarctic continent since then. B31 is a whopping 240 square miles (over 600 square kilometers). NASA recently re-acquired it via satellite, and, although B31 does meet the criteria for tracking and naming, for now it remains in the Amundsen Sea near Antarctica, although free now of surrounding debris and sea ice.
Large icebergs like these pose a danger to ships. For example, in 2007, the MS Explorer, a small Canadian cruise ship, sank after striking an iceberg near the South Shetland Islands.
Bottom line: Early December 2014 images of the large, nearly circular iceberg adrift in the South Atlantic Ocean. It’s big – 165 square kilometers (64 square miles) – but doesn’t meet the criteria for tracking or naming.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.