The A68 is a British “trunk road” connecting Darlington in the North East of England to the A720 which skirts the South of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city. The A720, known locally as “the bypass”, is best avoided during rush hour.
This Anglo-Scottish thoroughfare is not to be confused with a different A68 which (per Wikipedia) is a 61.9 km autoroute connecting the cities of Toulouse and Albi in southern France. The French road is also known as “La Tarnaise” after the proximate Tarn River.
The world now has a new A68 – the name given by scientists to the gargantuan slab of ice which this week broke from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice-shelf in a long-anticipated and widely-reported bid for freedom into the Weddell Sea.
Big icebergs have calved from Antarctica in the past, and the phenomenon is broadly being described as part of a natural process.
Global News reports that scientists had been “monitoring this particular piece of ice months, as they watched a crack grow more than 200 km along the ice shelf before it broke off”.
According to University of British Columbia professor Christian Schoof , “Climate change likely isn’t the cause this time because there hasn’t been ice thinning, in fact this ice shelf has actually thickened”.
But just how big is Iceberg A68?
A68 will “will average about 625 feet in thickness from top to bottom, maxing out at about 690 feet below the water’s surface. Knowing the surface area will cover about 2,550 square miles has allowed scientists to estimate that the iceberg will contain roughly 277 cubic miles of ice”. (Dr Noel Gourmelen, University of Edinburgh, Scotland)
- A68 is “expected to have enough ice to fill more than 463 million Olympic swimming pools”. (climatecentral.org)
- A68 is “more than half the size of Qatar” (CNN)
- A68 is “about the size of Delaware”. (Los Angeles Times)
- A68 is “the size of Wales”. (Sputnik News)
- A68 is “un iceberg de mille milliards de tonnes” (Luxemburger Wort)
- A68 is “twice the size of Luxembourg” (The Guardian)
- A68 is not a Nothing-Berger (OOSKAnews)
Do we have more fun iceberg facts? Well:
In May 2017 a Middle East company announced plans to tow icebergs 9,200 kilometres from the Antarctic to Fujairah, on the coast of the United Arab Emirates, for use as drinking water.
As long ago as 1976, French entrepreneur and environmentalist Georges Mougin suggested icebergs as a source of freshwater for parched regions of the world. Mougin ended up putting the idea on the back burner due to concerns over cost and the difficulty of carrying out the project.
Why do polar bears not eat penguins? Aha! Maybe they did once!
Why does A68 have a boring alphanumeric name instead of one of those cool ones they give to hurricanes and typhoons? The US National Ice Center (USNIC) names icebergs that it tracks. The names are derived from the Antarctic quadrant in which they were originally sighted, divided in the following manner:
A = 0-90W (Bellingshausen/Weddell Sea)
B = 90W-180 (Amundsen/Eastern Ross Sea)
C = 180-90E (Western Ross Sea/Wilkesland)
D = 90E-0 (Amery/Eastern Weddell Sea)
So now we know.