Giant Iceberg Is Poised to Break Off of Antarctica, Scientists Say

09 January, 2017, 00:53 | Author: Sam Montgomery
  • Larsen B Ice Shelf after its breakup in 2002

The area of ice slated to break off the ice-covered continent is more than 1,930 square miles, or greater than than 5,000 square kilometers in area, according to scientists affiliated with Project MIDAS, which monitors the ice shelf with support from the British Antarctic Survey and other partners.

An iceberg a quarter of the size of Wales - and one of the 10 largest ever recorded - is about to break away from Antarctica.

A growing rift on the floating Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula - a rift that grew dramatically by another 11 miles last month, according to a team of scientists watching it closely - is setting the shelf up for an imminent loss of almost 2,000 square miles of ice, these scientists say.

Scientists say that a 1,900 square-mile section of the in the "Larsen C" ice shelf is now only connected to the main body by a 12-mile section of ice.

A giant iceberg is about to break away from an ice shelf in Antarctica.

Swansea University's Adrian Luckman, who heads up Project Midas, told the BBC, "If it doesn't go in the next few months, I'll be amazed".

The Larsen C Ice Shelf is the most northerly of the remaining major Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves.

Data collected before and after the expected rift will help scientists develop models to better predict when and why icebergs calve from ice shelves.

Ice shelves are areas of ice, often huge, floating around on the sea at the end of glaciers.

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Larsen B ice shelf on January 31, 2002.

This Nov. 10, 2016 aerial photo released by NASA, shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf.

Two smaller ice shelves near Larsen C - Larsen A, and Larsen B - have already largely disintegrated. By April 13, 2002, the ice shelf had collapsed. The crack is now about 60 miles long (97 kilometers) and about 300 feet wide (100 meters). "It's just a big geographical event that will change the landscape there". Depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you live on, the resulting chunk of ice will be the size of the state of DE or one-fourth the size of Wales.

And the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on Earth.

"I think in terms of the impact that the iceberg has on the ocean, it's a very spectacular event but its not going to be a huge thing in itself - the iceberg is big but the oceans are a lot bigger", O'Leary added.

More worrisome is the possibility that the calving event-which refers to the breaking off of the iceberg, from the ice shelf that it's now attached to-could speed up the disintegration of the broader ice shelf and land-based ice that lies behind it.

The long-term result, scientists project, could be to noticeably raise global sea levels by 10cm.

"Ice shelves serve a critical role in buttressing ice that's on land", said NASA scientist Thomas Wagner said.

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