A Giant Iceberg Is About To Break Off From Antarctica

Posted: Jan 7 2017, 2:30am CST | by , Updated: Jan 7 2017, 2:37am CST , in Latest Science News


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A Giant Iceberg is about to Break off from Antarctica
Credit: MIDAS project

Researchers warn that Antarctica may lose an iceberg the size of Delaware in the future

A huge iceberg is set to break away from Antarctic ice shelf after fast spreading of a crack, according to a British research team. If it occurs, this would be one of the largest breaks of its kind on record.

A long-running rift on Antarctica ice shelf Larsen C has grown dramatically over the months and now just a patch of 20km of ice is keeping the whole ice shelf intact. If the crack completely cuts through it, it will produce an iceberg around 5,000 square kilometers – roughly the size of the state of Delaware.

Researchers have been keeping a close eye on the crack in this ice shelf for many years. In August, they have reported that the crack has grown 22 kilometers long. It further spread to 18 kilometers in the end of December last year, leading researchers to believe that an iceberg is set to dislodge. This event will fundamentally change the landscape of Antarctic Peninsula.

“The calving of this large iceberg could be the first step of the collapse of Larsen C ice shelf, which would result in the disintegration of a huge area of ice into a number of icebergs and smaller fragments. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the stability of the Larsen C ice shelf, we chose not to camp on the ice this season.”Glaciologist Professor David Vaughan, Director of Science at British Antarctic Survey said.

Larsen C, the fourth largest iceberg in Antarctica, is approximately 350 meters thick and floats at the edge of West Antarctica. Computer modeling suggests that the remaining ice could become unstable, and that Larsen C may follow the example of its small neighbor ice shelf Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 after experiencing a similar kind of calving event.

“We are convinced, although others are not, that the remaining ice shelf will be less stable than the present one,” said Professor Luckman from Swansea University and leader of MIDAS project.

“We would expect in the ensuing months to years further calving events, and maybe an eventual collapse - but it's a very hard thing to predict, and our models say it will be less stable; not that it will immediately collapse or anything like that.”

Researchers will continue observing the ice shelf and rift on it for further assessment.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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