STATES CHRONICLE – The Larsen C Ice shelf, part of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet is cracking from the inside out and getting increasingly closer to breaking off.
It is quite a commonly known fact that West Antarctica glaciers are floating away. The phenomenon in itself is not new. Usually, it isn’t even that concerning. However, recent float offs have started concerning scientists. The problem? Their increasingly bigger size.
And the Larsen C ice shelf may soon join them. Its biggest problem is that it is cracking up. More exactly, research determined that the glacier is breaking from the inside out.
British researchers are currently monitoring the area. They are part of the MIDAS Project. Adrian Luckman went to offer details. He is a Swansea University in Wales professor. Luckman is also the head of project MIDAS.
According to him, a Larsen C crack has been growing for years. The phenomenon had a steady grow over the years. It registered some months of incremental advance. However, the rift registered a sudden growth.
This event took place late last year. In December 2016, it grew by 11 miles. The sudden increased was registered in the second half of the month.
As it is, the Larsen C crack is about 70 miles long now. Researchers have turned to analyzing the sudden growth. And their study revealed the following fact. The glacier is cracking from the inside out. And at an alarming speed for that.
Scientists haven taken to monitoring the rift. For now, the ice shelf is still connected to the continent. However, its connection is just around 12 miles long. As such, the glacier is very close to breaking away.
The fissure will only have to reach the ice shelf’s far side. After that, it will most likely float away. The ensuing iceberg’s dimensions would be quite significant. It could be the size of Delaware, the U.S. state. Its approximated size will be of around 2,000 square miles.
Its mother ice shelf is quite large itself. It is very close in size to Scotland. And it’s considered fourth largest of its type in the Antarctica.
The Larsen C ice shelf potential cast away also pointed out another fact. Ice retreats are now taking place farther inland. Usually, such events take place on the outskirts of an ice sheet.
Larsen C’s breaking off consequences are still up in the air. Scientists are still quite uncertain. But its effects could be quite significant. Following such an event, the ice shelf would lose over 10 percent of its current area.
This would leave its ice front farther inland than ever recorded before. As such, this will bring big changes. The Antarctic Peninsula’s landscape will be greatly altered.
Larsen’s latest break off also reveals another fact. In fact, it actually reveals an ice shelf pattern. Over the past 20 or so years, two other ice shelves have broken off. 1995 saw the collapse of Larsen A. And Larsen B mostly disappeared in 2002.
This in itself is an unusual event. Scientists theorize that this has not happened over the past 12,000 years. Even worse, it may not have happened in the last 100,000 years.
The current Larsen C float away will not likely affect sea levels. But future break off will certainly increase water levels. If all the Larsen C shelf would disappear, the ice it held back will rise global waters. Their level could increase by 4 inches.
Still, there are only a few certainties at the moment. Researchers know that the ice is breaking apart alarmingly fast. But they can only observe, analyze and compare data. Still, an imminent change of the Antarctic icy coast is sure to come.
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