Giant Iceberg That Broke Off From Larsen C Ice Shelf In Antarctica Fuels Climate Change Debate

The trillion-ton iceberg which makes up about 12 percent of Larsen C ice shelf finally broke off sometime between July 10 and 12, changing the Antarctic landscape for good.

Scientists have been observing the crack's movement closely for the past few months, and now that the calving is over, debates over the role of climate change on the Antarctic have begun.

Project Midas, a UK-based research team, explains that the broken off section of Larsen C covers an area of 2,300 square miles and holds twice the volume of Lake Erie, the 11th largest lake in the world with a volume of 116 cubic miles. The team has been monitoring the Larsen C crack for the past year.

"We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometres of ice ... The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," Project Midas lead investigator Professor Adrian Luckman said.

Don't Blame Climate Change

It is not just the iceberg's future that scientists are attempting to predict, because experts are also looking into why the massive break happened. Of course, calving is a natural process for icebergs, but scientists are divided over the cause of Larsen C calving due to the sheer volume of ice that broke off.

People are concerned that the rapid global warming due to human activities is one of the main reasons why the world's ice shelves are thinning and declining faster than expected. Scientists, however, believe it is too early and convenient to blame climate change for the Larsen C ice shelf break.

"We're concerned about what happens next, but I would not tie this single event to climate change," Colorado State University Glaciologist Dan McGrath said.

According to scientists, calving is really just a natural process for icebergs. There is also no cause for concern about the sea levels rising because of the massive Larsen C iceberg since it merely disconnected from the shelf.

Researchers also believe that melting icebergs are actually helping to slow down the effects of climate change since it improves the nutrients in water and promotes plankton blooms.

As for the state of Larsen C, Project Midas researchers say that it could either regrow the ice it lost or become vulnerable and eventually collapse, but there is no telling which way it would go at this time.

"Although this is a natural event, and we're not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position ... We're going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable," Swansea University Glaciologist Dr. Martin O'Leary said. Dr. O'Leary is part of the Project Midas research team.

The team also added that, if Larsen C would eventually collapse, it will happen years or decades in the future.

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