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Larsen C Ice Shelf Break Could Occur Within "Hours, Days, or Weeks"

30 June 2017, 6:16 pm EDT By Eric Brackett Tech Times
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Researchers monitoring the split at the Larsen C ice shelf have reported that the shelf's split is "imminent" and would create a massive iceberg.

Currently, the iceberg is attached to the shelf but is moving at rates faster than previously recorded. As of the time of this writing, the potential iceberg is moving at speeds of roughly 32 feet per day. The team is unsure of when the split will occur but does warn that it could happen within hours.

There's still about miles of ice tethering the iceberg to the larger ice shelf, but there's no telling how long that will last given that the movement of the ice keeps accelerating.

One Of The Largest Icebergs Ever Produced

The iceberg remains attached to the shelf's western shore. When it does break, it will "fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula." The Midas team has warned that this split could cause a chain reaction which would eventually result in the Larsen C ice shelf fragmenting into multiple smaller icebergs. An event such as this occurred when an iceberg split from the nearby Larsen B ice shelf. Eventually, the entire shelf splintered.

The Effects Of Larsen C Splintering

It should be noted that while the iceberg that would be formed by this event would be massive — about the size of Delaware — it would not have too much of an impact on sea levels. If this event caused the rest of the ice shelf to break apart then we could see a rise in sea levels.

"If you remove an ice shelf, all of the glaciers that used to feed into it start putting more ice out into the ocean and that's where you get your potential contributions to sea level rise," said a member of the Midas team monitoring the ice shelf.

Overall, the glaciers that feed into the Larsen C ice shelf contain about 10 centimeters of global sea level equivalent, but researchers do not think all of it would go into the sea.

As of right now, the team is still unsure as to what's causing the split to occur. Water temperatures in the Antartic are rising, but it is difficult to say if that is the reason for the split. Icebergs split from shelves like this fairly regularly and it can be difficult to determine what is a normal pace. The main reason this one stands out is due to its size.

We'll continue to monitor this story and provide an update if anything changes.

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Eric Brackett Tech Times editor Eric Brackett is a tech junkie and a gamer, covering science and technology. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for updates and his random thoughts on the latest trends in gaming, tech, and comic books.

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