A Giant Iceberg Is About To Break Away From Antarctica

First Posted: Jan 07, 2017 03:00 AM EST

A massive iceberg that is considered one of the largest icebergs ever recorded is about to break away from Larsen C shelf in Antarctica. About only 20 km of ice is preventing the 5,000 sq km piece from crashing and floating away from the shelf.

Professor Adrian Luckman, the project leader from Swansea University, said that he will be amazed if it does not go in the next few months. He further said that there haven't been enough cloud-free Landsat images. On the other hand, they have managed to combine a pair of ESA Sentinel-1 radar images to notice this extension, and it is so close to calving that he thinks it is inevitable.

The rift in the shelf has suddenly grown in December 2017. It is growing by about 18 km in just a few weeks. A piece, which is about the size of Kangaroo Island, will risk the whole shelf breaking up. Larsen C shelf is considered the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica. It is about 350 meters thick and drifts on the seas at the edge of West Antarctica.

Professor Luckman said that the area that will collapse will be about 5,000 sq km. The team also said that this is geographical and not a climate event. It is theorized that the global warming triggers the separation of the iceberg. On the other hand, the scientists said they have no evidence to substantiate this, according to BBC News.

They are also concerned how another break-off will influence the rest of the ice shelf. In 2002, Larsen B was disintegrated following the same big calving event. Professor Luckman said that they are convinced, although others are not, that the remaining ice shelf will be less stable than the present one. He further said that they expect in the ensuing months to years further calving events, and maybe an eventual collapse. On the other hand, he said it is very hard thing to predict and their models say it will be less stable -- not that it will immediately collapse or anything like that. 

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