Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf with Massive Fracture is alarming: Research

Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf with Massive Fracture is alarming: Research

NASA has shared image of massive fracture in Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf. The fracture is nearly 70 miles long and 1,700 feet deep. The rift is as wide as a football field. Researchers have warned that the rift is growing and this could be an alarming sign of what could happen next. Ice shelves generally shed some of their regions but this one could be massive and it will have a major impact on the region.

As Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf already floats of sea water, the breaking off of the major chunk of ice from this shelf will not directly impact sea levels. However, when ice shelves fall apart, they leave the remaining part of ice cover vulnerable. This could raise sea level in future. Ice shelves on the front end act as a shield for rest of the ice cover.

Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf was pictured by NASA’s Terra satellite. Also, a NASA team working on IceBridge mission captured interesting images of Larsen C Ice Shelf on November 10. Mission IceBridge collects data about changes witnessed by polar region and sea ice in the region. Operation IceBridge started in year 2009 and will continue till 2019.

NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission ended in 2009. The second mission named ICESat-2 will launch in year 2018.

NASA team also noticed other small fissures in the ice shelf. However, most of them haven’t grown in size in the recent years.

Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory informed that it is general feature of ice shelves to face breakage but what they have noticed with this massive fracture is unusual.

In an official NASA post, Saraf Loss said, “The IceBridge scientists measured the Larsen C fracture to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep. The crack completely cuts through the ice shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware.”

Larsen C neighbors a smaller portion of the broader icy fringe that disintegrated in 2002. That smaller portion had developed a rift very much like the massive Larsen C rift spotted by NASA in November.