A massive iceberg the size of Delaware broke free from an ice shelf in Antarctica's peninsula region this week.


The Times reports
that the so-called Larsen C ice shelf lost a 120-mile long chunk of mass on Wednesday. Scientists first spotted the crack in 2014 and have been monitoring it ever since. The resulting iceberg is one of the largest ever recorded, and though some scientists say it's not uncommon for icebergs to break away from ice shelves, there is concern that more ice shelves (and Antarctica's mainland) are at risk as the world warms up. When icebergs break off shelves, they usually float to warmer waters and eventually melt.

"As climate warming progresses farther south," Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine, told the paper, "It will affect larger and larger ice shelves, holding back bigger and bigger glaciers, so that their collapse will contribute more to sea-level rise." Rising seas continue to pose an existential threat to coastal cities like New York and Miami.

The Larsen A shelf collapsed in 1995. "This is part of the normal behavior of ice shelves," Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, the lead researcher for the Project Midas group that's been keeping tabs on the the Larsen C shelf, said in a statement. "What makes this unusual is the size." And though Luckman says any repercussions from the rift probably won't be felt for years, the change to the area's landscape is extreme. "The remaining shelf will be at its smallest ever known size. This is a big change," he told the Times, adding, "Maps will need to be redrawn.”

It has not been scientifically proven that manmade climate change caused this rift, though Luckman says "regional warming" may account for some of it. In March 2015, Antarctica hit a record high temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit.