Gigantic Antarctic ice shelf is set to break off

(Last Updated On: June 2, 2017)


By James, Michael Igiri



Scientists have warned a massive iceberg in Antarctica is dangerously close

to breaking off.

The rift in the Larsen C ice shelf has grown by 10.6 miles in just six days and, while

such cracks happen periodically, experts are also watching to see whether the

process has been affected by climate change.

A US online newspaper source reports that scientists at the University of Swansea

said the break could produce a new iceberg of about 1,900 square miles – one of the

largest ever recorded.

“There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away

completely,” they said.

Larsen C is about 350m thick and floats on the seas at the edge of West Antarctica.

It is the largest and most northerly of the Antarctic ice shelves and the release of the

new iceberg – called calving – would see it lose about a tenth of its total area.

It would not be enough to contribute to the rise of sea levels but it could leave the

main part of the ice shelf unstable, allowing it to collapse and release large amounts

of water, the scientists have said.

Professor Adrian Luckman, of Swansea University College of Science and head of

Project Midas, said the event would “fundamentally change the landscape of the

Antarctic Peninsula”.

He added: “We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable

than it was prior to the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of

its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced

calving event.”

The news comes on the same day that US President Donald Trump announced he

would pull his country out of the Paris Agreement to limit climate change.

While Project Midas scientists said they have no evidence to link the growth of the

rift to climate change, it is widely accepted that warming ocean and atmospheric

temperatures were a factor in the disintegration of Larsen A and Larsen B.

Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, they said, adding that this

would “certainly not have hindered the development of the rift” in Larsen C.