Scientists spot new crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf

Scientists spot new crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf

After recently spotting a new crack in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, scientists have warned that it is only a matter of time before an enormous chunk containing up to two thousand square miles of ice breaks away.

Scientists involved in the Project Midas, an Antarctic research project based at Swansea University and Aberystwyth University, spotted the new crack in satellite images on 1st of May.
The new spotted crack is the second branch in the already large rift, which is advancing in the direction of the ice front.

Prof. Adrian Luckman, who is leading the Project Midas, said, “We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable than it was before the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbor Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.”

The Larsen C ice shelf is located on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, where scientists discovered the large rift spanning nearly 111 miles long. Rift lengthened by around 17 miles between the start of December and the middle of January this year. Since 2011, the rift has grown by roughly fifty miles.

The Larsen B ice shelf came to a sudden end in 2002 after suffering particularly warmer Antarctic summers. Another neighboring ice shelf, Larsen A, collapsed in 1995. The collapse of Larsen C has the potential to unleash enough ice to increase global sea levels by around a centimeter.

The research paper informed...

It is currently winter in Antarctica, therefore direct visual observation is extremely difficult. Our observations of the rift are based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) interferometry from ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellites. Although the rift length has been static for several months, it has been steadily widening, at rates in excess of a meter per day. This widening has increased noticeably since the development of the new branch, as can be seen in measurements of the ice flow velocity.

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. 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.

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