Published: Tue, January 10, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Big iceberg set to break off Antarctic coast

Big iceberg set to break off Antarctic coast

A team of British researchers have warned that a massive iceberg, with an area nearly the size of the American state of DE, is poised to break off Antarctica.

A massive chunk of ice may break away from one of Antarctica's largest ice shelves as soon as later this winter, a team of British scientists has warned.

A slow-progressing rift suddenly grew by 18 kilometres (11 miles) at the end of December, leaving the finger-shaped chunk - 350 metres thick - connected along only a small fraction of its length.

The scientists said in a statement, "When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula".

In an interview with CNN, MIDAS researcher Martin O' Leary explained that the large iceberg could cause make the remaining ice sheet unstable, leading to a rise in sea levels. While the break-off itself wouldn't raise sea levels since icebergs float, ice shelves slow the flow of glaciers, which contribute to global sea level rise.

Scientists with Project MIDAS have found that an enormous rift in the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, has been growing at an alarming rate.

But in December a year ago, the rift expanded rapidly. It is the ground ice melting, rather than glaciers, that dramatically impacts sea levels. "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 ice block now separating from Larsen C contains about 10 percent of its mass, and would be among the 10 largest break-offs ever recorded, Luckman said.

Antarctica-which holds 90 percent of the Earth's fresh water-is losing about 92 billion tons of ice per year.

The researchers say that this is a geographical and not a climate event.

"By looking at what happened in the past we can gain insights into where our planet may be heading", said co-author UNSW Professor Chris Turney. Andrew Fleming, remote sensing manager at the British Antarctic Survey, told Reuters that the ice was being thawed by a combination of warmer air above and warmer waters below.

Like this: