AUG 24, 2016 02:10 PM PDT

A long way across: 80 mile crack in Antarctic ice shelf


Larsen C is one of the world’s largest ice shelves.  The most northern major ice shelf of the Antarctic peninsula, Larsen C is the fourth largest Antarctic ice shelf overall. The Larsen ice shelf is split up into three smaller ice shelves - Larsen A, B, and C. Larsen A and B have already experienced massive declines over the past two decades, and now a study from researchers from Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic Survey that involves teams from several UK universities, report that approximately 12% of the entire Larsen C ice shelf is expected to break off, leaving the exposed ice front at its most retreated position ever.
 

Larsen C, according to the British Antarctic Survey, is “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350-meter-thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in length between 2011 and 2015. And as it grew, also became wider — by 2015, yawning some 200 meters in length. The scientists, who are part of Project MIDAS, found that the large crack had grown another 13.67 miles (22 kilometers) since it was observed in March, and has widened to about 350 meters. The full length of the crack is now 80 miles (130 kilometers), researchers say.
 
Ice shelf loss from Larsen B in 2002. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

The scientists say the crack may carve out an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware. Glaciologist Martin O'Leary, one of the study researchers, calculated that the amount of ice lost would be about 6,000 square kilometers (2,316 square miles). O'Leary says it is hard to predict when it will happen the calving will happen. "It's a lot like predicting an earthquake," says O'Leary. "Exact timings are hard to come by."

This ice loss will represent the largest calving event in the Antarctic peninsula since the turn of the century. It will also be the third biggest collapse ever recorded, as well as the largest from the Larsen C ice shelf. When the huge ice shelf does calve, the activity could indirectly raise sea levels by causing the seaward flow of the non-floating ice behind it to go more quickly.

Sources: The Washington Post, Project MIDAS, Tech Times, Nature World News, Science Alert
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 12, 2018
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2018
Can the world follow Australia's plastic bag ban?
Almost six months ago now Australia’s two biggest supermarkets decided to ban plastic bags. Woolworths went single-use plastic bag free on June 20th;...
DEC 18, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 18, 2018
Learn Why the State of Utah Drops Fish From Airplanes
Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources drops thousands of fish into mountain lakes from airplanes every single year, and while it might seem like a po...
DEC 26, 2018
Earth & The Environment
DEC 26, 2018
Costa Rica just broke its own renewable energy record
This past month Costa Rica broke their own 2015 record of 299 days using only renewable energy for electricity: this year, they went 300 days. Known for de...
JAN 02, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 02, 2019
Some Hummingbirds Are Built for Fighting Instead of Feeding
Hummingbirds are seemingly peaceful creatures; with their long, flexible bills, they’re continuously sipping nectar from plants to fuel their perpetu...
FEB 06, 2019
Plants & Animals
FEB 06, 2019
Are Islands to Blame for the Penguin Diversity We Have Today?
Scientists have been trying to learn about the factors that drive speciation since the dawn of time, and while there’s still much to be discovered in...
FEB 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
FEB 20, 2019
Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?
Researchers have long wondered why zebras sport such eye-jarring black and white stripes, especially since most large mammals in the animal kingdom exhibit...
Loading Comments...