Giant Iceberg Cuts off from Antarctica at Rapid Pace
Jan 09, 2017 08:30 AM EST
A large iceberg the size of Delaware is expected to break off from Antarctica and float towards the sea. Known as the Larsen C iceberg, this huge sheet of ice has been cutting off from Antarctica at a fast pace with the gap reaching 18km in the middle of December 2016.
Although the Larsen C iceberg has already been monitored over the past decades and has been expected to eventually rift from Antarctica, researchers found that such separation has been done at a speedy pace in the past months.
With 350 meters of thickness, Larsen C drifts on the waters to the border of West Antarctica and is still connected to its parent shelf by 20 kilometers, as pointed out by the U.K. research team Project MIDAS.
The iceberg, which measures approximately 5,000 square meters, is not the entirety of the Larsen C ice sheet. As it cleaves off, such iceberg will only cut around 10 percent of the whole ice sheet.
While this is not the first time that icebergs in the Antarctic have been created in such manner, the separation of Larsen C will bring on a critical change in the continent’s landscape.
"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," lead researcher Professor Adrian Luckman explained in a statement shared on the MIDAS website.
Prior to such incident, a nearby ice shelf known as Larsen B aggressively separated itself from its parent shelf, resulting to shattered pieces that pushed a great volume of cracked ice onto the Antarctic seas.
Even before such collapse, a Larsen A ice shelf was already cut off from this ice mass in 1995.
In an interview with CNN, MIDAS researcher Martin O’ Leary explained that the large iceberg could cause make the remaining ice sheet unstable, leading to a rise in sea levels.
According to the research team, the separation of Larsen C might be brought on by the natural geographic patterns they had already identified in their studies in the past decades.
"We don't think there is a strong link to change climate change in terms of the provocation of the crack in question ... but we couldn't work that out," O'Leary said.