An Antarctic ice shelf, known as Larsen C, is threatening to crumble because of an 80 mile wide crack. Larsen C, part of the Larsen Ice Shelf, is the subject of an intense study by a group of scientists The crack, originally 18 miles in length in 2015, has dramatically increased and threatens the ice shelf. The fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica, the Larsen is separated into three chunks: A, B, and C, according to The Washington Post.
The Larsen C ice shelf is located along the Weddell Sea in the northwestern area of Antarctica. The shelf, named after Captain Carl Anton Larsen who sailed along the structure in 1893, is the fourth largest in Antarctica. Larsen Ice Shelf C is the largest section and is about the size of Scotland. This shelf and other shelves are called that because it is covered by extremely thick ice and floats on top of deep ocean waters.
The crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is growing longer to over 80 miles and wider. According to ScienceAlert, 12 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf is expected to break off. Scientists from Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project, have been monitoring the ice shelf for the past two years. The crack could mean the “loss of an enormous chunk.” This possibly historic event could lead to the remaining shelf becoming unstable and result in more ice mass being lost.
While the ice shelves lose chunks, the sea levels do not rise because the ice shelves already float; but the loss can “speed up the seaward flow of the non-floating glacial ice behind it” contributing to rising sea levels. The Larsen C ice shelf holds back would raise global sea levels by four inches. The team, however, is uncertain when the ice shelf would split and shed or calve. A study published in Nature Climate Change stated that the shelf’s “passive” ice could be lost without significant consequences. Project MIDAS, however, believes the consequences could be devastating.
On Project MIDAS’s blog, the team wrote about the growing rift on Larsen C. Using computer modeling, the team wrote that the “remaining ice could become unstable,” following the disintegration of Larsen B in 2002. NASA was also concerned about the Larsen B saying that the quick weakening of the shelf could disintegrate completely by the end of the decade. Larsen B did suddenly break soon afterward. Larsen C could also go the way of Larsen B, “setting off continuing losses” until it disappeared. For more CDA News, follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
By Cheryl Werber