Crack In Antarctic Ice Shelf Could Produce Iceberg

First Posted: Feb 22, 2017 03:50 AM EST

A recently released video showed that there is a massive crack in an Antarctic ice shelf. The crack, at 110 miles long on the Larsen C shelf, is said to possibly create a massive iceberg.

The research group monitoring the crack, British Antarctic Survey, noted that the resulting iceberg could be larger than Rhode Island. The crack was said to be 1,500 feet wide, and it has already grown 20 miles since December, which is considered a fast pace by its own standards. Before that, USA Today reported that it grew only 50 miles since 2011. Once the crack goes all the way across the shelf, an iceberg could be sheared off.

This is not worrisome, though. Project MIDAS, which watches over the crack, said that ice shelves actually produce icebergs every few decades. In 1995 and 2002, icebergs broke off the nearby Larsen A and B ice shelves.

There is no telling when the iceberg at Larsen C could break off, nor can anyone say for certain that it is a result of climate change. But as of the moment, global warming seems to be the cause for the thinning of the ice.

Ala Khaznedar, a geophysicist at NASA, shared that the breaking off in Larsen B became a "turning point" in their understanding of the ice shelves. "It was the biggest collapse of its kind up to that point, and it served to demonstrate how ice shelves regulate the movement of ice from the interior of the ice sheet to the ocean," she shared.

Scientific American noted that Larsen C has been receding since the 1980s, and there have also been suggestions that its ice have been thinning over the past decades. However, the ice sheet is said to be protected, at least to some degree, thanks to the rapid collapse of seafloor geometry.

Yet the glaciers that flow into Larsen C has enough water to raise the global sea levels to about a centimeter. The collapse of such shelf, when time comes, can be felt from beyond Antarctica. For now, all researchers could do is to watch the ever expanding ice rift.

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