Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, the continent’s fourth largest, could see a massive part of it breaking off in the coming days. The deep crack continues to grow, and the chunk of ice separating from it is the size of Delaware.
Tech Times previously reported that the “imminent” split could occur within hours to weeks, the potential iceberg moving at rates faster than previously documented. It’s following a speed of about 32 feet per day.
Monitoring The Iceberg
Recent monitoring of the Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar pair in the European Space Agency’s CryoSat mission revealed that the crack is now about 200 kilometers long (124 miles), leaving a mere 5 kilometers (3 miles) between the end of the fissure and the ocean.
While scientists are largely uncertain when the split will take place, the mission could share some potential measurements of the iceberg.
“Using information from CryoSat, we have mapped the elevation of the ice above the ocean and worked out that the eventual iceberg will be about 190 m thick and contain about 1155 cubic kilometers of ice,” said Noel Gourmelen from the University of Edinburgh.
“We have also estimated that the depth below sea level could be as much as 210 m.”
Causes And Implications
Scientists remain divided as to what really causes this massive event: some call it a natural occurrence that’s typical of many ice shelves, while others contend that it’s the handiwork of climate change.
“This is a normal event day in the life of an ice shelf, but what is capturing people’s attention is just the size of this thing,” said ESA scientist Dr. Mark Drinkwater, adding that unlike Larsen A and Larsen B that both disintegrated due to a mix of factors, Larsen C is still in stable condition.
And while the iceberg is already floating in water and won’t directly affect sea levels at present, long-term effects from the split are feared, including endangering ships in surrounding waters as the iceberg floats and breaks off into smaller pieces further.
There are different things that could happen to the Larsen C iceberg: calve in pieces, or get dragged north by ocean currents as far as the Falkland Islands whether it’s whole or in pieces, scientists explained.
Ice shelves serve as a crucial barrier to prevent land-based ice sheets as well as glaciers from melting into oceans and increasing sea levels.
The Antarctic ice sheet is the Earth’s largest single mass of ice, where the growing pile of snowfall has led to ice shelf-forming ice sheet over millions of years.