Antarctic ice shelf about to break away, form Delaware-sized iceberg

  • Published on July 1st, 2017

The Delaware-sized piece of the Larsen C Antarctic ice shelf appears to be nearing the point of breaking away. This will become the second-largest iceberg ever recorded, according to the researchers at Project MIDAS.

By James Ayre Larsen C ice shelf ready to break

The Project MIDAS researchers report: “In another sign that the iceberg calving is imminent, the soon-to-be-iceberg part of Larsen C ice shelf has tripled in speed to more than 10 meters (33 feet) per day between 24th and 27th June 2017. The iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, but its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf.”

There is still a tether of about 8 miles keeping the soon-to-be iceberg from breaking loose, but given how fast the far edge is now moving away from the main body of the ice shelf, this tether likely won’t last too long.

To put that all in plainer language, the future iceberg is now “wiggling like a loose tooth.”

Antarctic ice on the brink of breakup?

Climate Central provides more: “The speed-up is the latest sign that an iceberg Larsen B ice shelf ready to breakis truly on the brink of forming. Project MIDAS researchers have been monitoring the state of the ice shelf since October 2015. During that time, they’ve observed periods of massive growth in the length of the crack across the ice shelf, widening to the point where you could lay the Empire State Building on its side to form a bridge across the chasm. More recently, a new branch sprouted, further warping the ice.

“The latest change brings the break-off date that much closer to happening, though researchers cautioned it could still be weeks before the crack breaks through completely. When it does, though, it will drastically alter one of the largest ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula.”

What’s meant by “drastically alter” is that as much as 10% of the Larsen C ice shelf may end up breaking off with the new iceberg, but that’s only the initially result. The event may well destabilize the whole ice shelf and prepare it for collapse — as occurred with the Larsen B ice shelf (pictured above).

Regardless of the coming iceberg calving, the overall situation in Antarctica has been changing rapidly in recent years. West Antarctica seems to be fast approaching the point at which ice sheet collapse is inevitable — something that will lead to a large rise in sea levels, and much more rapidly than current estimates (which were based on a stable ice cover in Antarctica).

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica. Map by Project MIDAS, Larsen B crack photo by EPA)

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