A New Crack Has Opened In Antarctic Larsen C Ice Shelf

Posted: May 3 2017, 12:36am CDT | by , Updated: May 3 2017, 12:43am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
A New Crack has Opened in Antarctic Larsen C Ice Shelf
The current location of the rift on Larsen C, as of May 1 2017. Credit: USGS and Sentinel-1 InSAR

Latest data shows that Larcen C crack has just sprouted a new branch

A significant change has been observed in the crack of Larsen C ice shelf at the start of May. While the crack itself has not advanced, it has sprouted a new branch, cutting the tip of the main crack into two pieces. The new branch is 9 miles long and is moving toward the direction of ice front.

“It is currently winter in Antarctica, therefore direct visual observation is extremely difficult. Our observations of the rift are based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) interferometry from ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellites.” Researchers from the UK's Project Midas, led by Swansea University said in a statement.

Since 2014, a large crack is spreading rapidly across the Larsen C ice shelf of western Antarctica. The crack reportedly grew 110 miles long and is poised to dislodge a massive iceberg. Just 10 miles of ice is now keeping the iceberg from falling into the open sea. Once ice shelf breaks off, it will produce one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. But exactly how long this will take is difficult to predict.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University said.

Larsen C is the fourth biggest ice shelf in Antarctica which covers 50,000 square kilometers and contains 350 meters thick ice.

British researchers have been monitoring the ice shelf from both above and below for many years and are hoping to understand the causes and implications of the rapid changes observed in the region. They suggest that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbor Larsen B ice shelf, which collapsed in 2002 after developing a rift similar to the Larsen. In 1995, another ice shelf, Larsen A, also met the same fate.

Ice shelves arefloating sheets of ice connected to land-based glaciers. This floating ice can hold back glaciers flowing down to the ocean. Their collapse can trigger larger volumes of ice entering the ocean and contribute to sea-level rise.

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