Scientists say Antarctic shelf close to calving huge iceberg

The large crack in the Larsen C ice shelf

Researchers with Project MIDAS, working out of Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Wales and studying the shelf by satellites and through other techniques, have released a new update showing that the crack grew a stunning 11 miles in the space of just one week between May 25 and May 31. "This event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula".

The 1,900-square-mile (5,000-square-kilometer) chunk of ice has almost completely broken off the Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth largest in Antarctica. For years, a now 88-mile long, 300-foot wide rift in the shelf has been monitored by scientists, which recently began rapidly lengthening.

They said the full split - referred to as "calving" - is "probably very close" as the rift has changed course slightly, leaving only eight miles before the berg, roughly the size of DE, separates from the shelf and falls into the Southern Ocean.

When the ice breaks off it will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.

"There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely", he said.

Ice shelves are permanent floating sheets of ice that connect to a landmass, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

There is no concern that Larsen C's breakup will contribute to a significant sea level rise. UK's Swansea University researchers said in a statement. Monitoring of the tear in the ice shows the tear has turned toward the outer edge of the ice where the shelf meets the water, indicating the eventual break will probably happen sooner rather than later.


Larsen C is the most northerly of the Antarctic ice shelves, as well as the largest.

The first, Larsen A, was lost in 1995.

The Larsen B event had no precedent since the end of the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago, according to glaciologists. Ice shelves are also becoming thinner as the oceans around Antarctica absorb heat from the atmosphere.

Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet. After that break, the number of glaciers behind it accelerated and are still flowing faster than before.

Scores of countries committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls for efforts to cap global warming at "well under" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial era levels.

On the campaign trail, Trump threatened to "cancel" the global pact, and he has said he will announce his final decision later Thursday.

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