Scientists are warning one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point. The reason, a massive crack in the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, suddenly grew by 18 kilometers (11 miles) during the second half of December 2016.
Ice sheets and glaciers
In 2014, Satellite images revealed that a crack in Larsen C rapidly extended across the ice shelf. British researchers who are monitoring the crack in this ice shelf believe that only about 12 miles now connect the chunk of ice to the rest of the continent. In the event the crack reaches the ice shelf’s edge, it could snap off a huge-sized area of ice (approx. 6000 square kilometes) Such a loss would reduce Larsen C’s size by about 10 percent. That’s enough to shrink the shelf to its smallest size in recorded history. And it could potentially kick start the shelf’s disintegration.
According to Daniela Jansen, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany: “We should keep a close eye on Larsen C,”….“It might not be there for so much longer.”
Larsen C covers about 55,000 square kilometers (21,000 square miles). That makes it the largest ice shelf along the Antarctic Peninsula. Since Larsen C’s ice already floats in the ocean, the big break-off won’t immediately raise global sea levels. But if the shelf collapses, then glacial ice could flow into the sea unabated and contribute to rising sea levels.