An iceberg the size of Singapore is drifting away from Antarctica and may enter shipping lanes as researchers race to track its progress.

© Reuters
The Pine Island Glacier ice shelf in Antarctica
An iceberg which is estimated to be around the size of Manhattan or Singapore could threaten shipping if it drifts into busy international lanes.

UK researchers have now been given an emergency grant to track the iceberg which is approximately 270 square miles in size.

The giant block of ice broke away from the Pine Island Glacier in July but it was iced-in due to the freezing winter temperatures in Antarctica.

While the iceberg could move eastwards along the Antarctic coast, it could also drift into the South Atlantic Ocean where it could potentially pose a hazard to ships if it crosses into international shipping lanes

Now the £50,000 research grant will fund a six month project which will predict the movements of the iceberg through the Southern Ocean.

The team of scientists will use data from a range of satellites to track the iceberg and predict any environmental impact.

The Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest and fastest moving glaciers in Antarctica and has concerned climate scientists for years because its ice is melting at a high rate.

In 2011 NASA scientists discovered a massive crack across the glacier extending for 19 miles.

Professor Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield is heading up the project.

He said of the iceberg: "Its current movement does not raise environmental issues, however a previous giant iceberg from this location eventually entered the South Atlantic and if this happens it could potentially pose a hazard to ships.

"If the iceberg stays around the Antarctic coast, it will melt slowly and will eventually add a lot of freshwater that stays in the coastal current, altering the density and affecting the speed of the current.

Similarly, if it moves north it will melt faster but could alter the overturning rates of the current as it may create a cap of freshwater above the denser seawater."

While Professor Bigg said that the iceberg was not large enough to have a long-lasting impact, he said that it could have an effect:

"If these events become more common, there will be a build-up of freshwater which could have lasting effects."

The work, which also includes scientists from the University of Southampton, will also test a technique which could in the future be used by ice hazard warning services.