NASA photo reveals a worrying 300-foot-wide rift in Antarctic Ice Shelf

The massive Larsen C Ice Shelf is about to break away for good, and “when” this happens it will produce an iceberg close to the size of Delaware floating around in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica.

According to new images released by NASA on Friday, the crack was seen to be getting longer, deeper and wider, which means sooner or later this will lead to a large section of the shelf breaking off. Last time the NASA scientists working on the field campaign, called Operation IceBridge, measured the Larsen C crevice, it was about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and one-third of a mile deep.

NASA said in a press release,

“The crack completely cuts through the Ice Shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once itdoes, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware.”

The eventual iceberg calving, expected to happen sometime within the next decade, will be one of the largest calving events since 2000, third biggest event ever in history and definitely the largest from this particular ice shelf.

IMAGE: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/UC IRVINE/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
IMAGE: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/UC IRVINE/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Larsen C’s disintegration was triggered after a smaller ice shelf broke off in 2002 in a similar pattern. Although the breaking of ice shelves don’t add to the sea by themselves since the ice is already floating in the water, it does give way to land-based ice move into the sea and increase the total sea level.

The breaking of Larsen C is a matter of grave concern as once the shelf breaks off, an area of ice which is comparable to the size of Scotland will be exposed to sea water, leading to possible destabilization and greater risk for melting.

Pic Credits: Project MIDAS
Pic Credits: Project MIDAS

The Larsen C Ice Shelf is loacted in the northerly part of the Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves, and has been noted to suffer from increasingly warmer air and sea temperatures.

larsen-b
Larsen B ice shelf before the rift/ Pic Credits: NASA

The adject Larsen B Ice Shelf was in the worldwide headlines when it underwent a smilar rifting process in 2002. The rifiting was even featured in the opening scenes of the climate change awarness film, The Day After Tomorrow.

larsen-b1
Larsen B shelf after the rift/ Pic Credits: NASA

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