An iceberg described as twice the size of New York City has broken off in Antarctica.

But the 600-square-mile piece on the Brunt Ice Shelf didn’t get free due to planetary warming that’s responsible for profound and worrisome effects elsewhere in Antarctica. Instead, it was a natural calving cycle that caused it to break away.

Gizmodo’s report on the new iceberg includes a fascinating satellite time-lapse of the breakaway.

So little is known by many about Antarctica, Earth’s southernmost continent, which is unique in so many ways. It’s been accurately described as the highest, driest, windiest, and coldest continent in the world. It’s the one on Earth which has no native population.

Much of it is covered by ice which is as thick as 2.5 to 3 miles in some areas.

Its mean elevation is higher than any other continent on the planet – 8,200 ft. above sea level. It’s more than three times as high as the U.S., which has a mean elevation of 2,500 feet. That’s one reason it’s markedly colder than the North Polar region of our planet.

Temps drop as one ascends through the atmosphere, so Antarctica’s elevation plus its southernmost location on the Earth, where sunlight disappears six months of the year, is behind its extreme cold. Its elevation of 8,200 ft. above sea level compared to the North Pole’s elevation of just a foot above sea level is the main reason Antarctica has hosted our planet’s coldest temps.

The average winter temp at the South Pole located in the Antarctic is minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average winter temp at the North Pole is closer to minus 40 Fahrenheit. In summer, the average temp at the South Pole is minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit while the average summertime temp at the North Pole is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The markedly higher elevation of the South Pole vs. the North Pole is at work to make that happen. So’s the extent and depth of the ice surrounding the South Pole.

I thought this summary of Antarctica in the Newsweek magazine article about Sunday’s calving iceberg was most interesting:

“Antarctica is the coldest and driest continent on Earth, containing around 70 percent of the planet’s freshwater frozen inside enormous ice sheets. Antarctica is considered a desert, receiving only around 8 inches of precipitation each year at the coasts, with even less inland. It holds the record for the coldest place on planet Earth, with temperatures of -128.6 F having been measured on July 21, 1983, on the Antarctic Plateau, at the then-Soviet-operated Vostok station. Coastal temperatures can rise as high as 50 F in summer months.”

There are mountain peaks in Antarctica which tower to the height of that plus its location at the bottom of our planet where, like both polar regions of Earth, sunlight disappears for six months– but in its “warm” season is present the other six months.