Antarctic Ice Shelf Is Beginning To Break Apart

Posted: Jul 21 2017, 11:56am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Antarctic Ice shelf is Beginning to Break Apart
Credits: NASA/Nathan Kurtz

A new crack has been detected in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has broken off from Larsen C ice shelf earlier this month. The iceberg was caused by an enormous crack that grew rapidly over the past few months and eventually went all the way across the ice shelf.

With the calving of iceberg, around 10% of the total area of Antarctic ice shelf has been lost and more than a trillion ton of ice collapsed into the ocean. Now, just few weeks later, researchers have detected a new crack in Larsen C, raising concerns over the stability of this fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica. The presence of new rift is confirmed by Sentinel-1 satellites’ July 18 images.

“Rifts (dark curving lines in the image), already present before A68 detached, are still in evidence and show where further small icebergs will probably be created. In a further development, a new rift appears to be extending northwards (towards the top left) and may result in further ice shelf area loss. Although this new rift will probably soon turn towards the shelf edge, there may be a risk that it will continue on to Bawden Ice Rise, a crucial point of stabilization for Larsen C Ice Shelf.” Researchers at Midas project, which is monitoring the changes of Larsen C after the collapse of iceberg named A68, said in a statement.

The calving of iceberg is a natural process. There is every chance that Larsen C will remain stable and its ice will naturally regrow. But there is also a possibility that it may eventually follow the example of its neighbor ice shelf, Larsen B, which weakened and disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.

The loss of such a large chunk of ice can put the ice shelf in a vulnerable position and researchers will keep a close eye on the changing situation by using radar images from the Sentinel satellite.

“The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” said Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project.

“We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.”

The Larsen C Ice Shelf, which has a thickness of between 200 and 600 meters, is located at the edge of The Antarctic Peninsula. If collapsed, the ice shelf will enter more ice into the ocean, where it will then add to sea level rise.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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