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One Of The Largest Icebergs On Record In Antarctica Is Now On The Verge Of Collapsing

First Posted: Jun 07, 2017 04:40 AM EDT
Antarctica: Larsen C Shelf Rift Poised To Break Away
The Larsen C Ice Shelf could break away at this period due to warm ocean and air temperatures.
(Photo : Nemesis Maturity/YouTube screenshot)

A part of Larsen C Ice Shelf, which is one of the largest ice shelves in Antarctica, is now on the verge of collapsing in just a few days. The crack in the shelf has expanded by 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) last week. It was enlarged by 80 miles (129 kilometers) in length and 300 feet in width since 2010 to November 2016.

As of now, the crack lengthened by 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers). Once the slab of ice was broken, it could be the size of Delaware. With this, it could definitely raise the sea levels.

Adrian Luckman from the Swansea University Project MIDAS team and who monitors the rapid changes on the Larsen C shelf said that the current process could disintegrate the shelf. He further said that the rift tip seems to have turned significantly toward the ice front. This suggests that the time of calving is probably very close. "There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely."

The Larsen Ice Shelf is located in the Weddell Sea (northwestern part) and expanded in the Antarctic Peninsula. It consists of segments known as Larsen A, which is the smallest, Larsen B and Larsen C, which is the largest. Larsen B collapsed in 2002 due to the warming of the ocean and air temperatures.

Hartmut Hellmer, the ice scientist from Alfred Wegener Institute, said that the rising air temperatures trigger a self-feeding climate feedback loop that pumps warmer water under the ice shelf. He further said that this will start the irreversible melt process, increasing ice loss and sea-level rise. He added that there will no turning back once the water masses penetrate under the ice shelf. The meltwater will produce a circulation and could suck much water beneath the ice, according to Pacific Standard.

Hellmer further said that that inflow of heat cannot be stopped. This means the losses of the mass of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will intensify.

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