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Antarctica Ice Shelf Crack Grows In Size; Scientists Are Not Alarmed

First Posted: Jan 11, 2017 04:00 AM EST
NASA's Operation IceBridge Maps Changes To Antartica's Ice Mass
Scientists said that the ice shelf crack will grow bigger in size, but they are not alarmed.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The edge of a key floating ice shelf is found to have a growing crack. However, the scientists that are watching this natural phenomenon are not alarmed.

The new image of the Larsen C ice shelf shows that the rift grew 11 miles (18 kilometers) in the last few weeks. The crack now measures more or less 60 miles long and about 300 feet wide. If it continues to grow a couple of miles, a Delaware-sized iceberg could break away and float.

Ted Scambos, a scientist at the University of Colorado, said that it could happen soon, with an estimated date some time in March. It would also "cut a deeper to the bone" of the ice shelf that would change its shape.

The ice shelves are the sheets of floating ice wraps around three-quarters of the South Pole's coastline. They can give protection and support to the inland glaciers, according to Business Insider.

Scambos, who is scheduled to travel to Antarctica for research, and other scientists mentioned that they do not see other key signs that the growing crack could result in a catastrophic event of the entire shelf. He said that, "A chunk of ice will break off. But it's not going to lead to a runaway disintegration."

NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally shared that, in 2002, the same thing happened to the smaller Larsen B shelf, allowing inland glaciers to shrink immediately. Zwally added that "There's no rapid melting with ponds of water on top of the ice this time. By itself, this calving is not a cause for alarm."

Zwally also explained that the large icebergs periodically break away from Antarctica naturally. But the ice shelf has been thinning as other ice shelves have been thinning in the Antarctic peninsula.

Meanwhile, a researcher at Swansea University in England, Adrian Luckman, has been monitoring the crack. He said that "There's no evidence linking this crack to climate change, yet it fits the overall warming picture," as reported by Phys.org.

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