An iceberg sized bigger than the area of Netherlands is about to break away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. A slow-progressing crack suddenly grew by 18 kilometers at the end of December, leaving the 350 meters thick chunk connected along only a small fraction of its length.
This rift is threatening to calve off a 5,000-square-kilometer segment of it.Now the rift is nearly 500 meters wide, it was 50 meters in 2011.
Scientists on NASA’s IceBridge mission photographed the massive rift on Larsen C in November last year.
“If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” said Adrian Luckman, a professor at Swansea University in Wales, and leader of Britain’s Project Midas, which tracks changes in West Antarctic ice formations according to BBC News.
“We are convinced—although others are not—that the remaining ice shelf will be less stable than the present one,” Luckman said in a statement.
Larsen C ice shelf is the most important ice shelf in northern Antarctica. Larsen C is already floating on the ocean, so its destruction won’t affect the sea level rise. The breaking off, or calving, of ice shelves, is a natural process, but global warming is thought to have accelerated the process.
“The Larsen B shattered like car safety glass into thousands and thousands of pieces. It disappeared in the space of about a week,” said Fleming.
The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B in 2002.