Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Larsen C ice shelf crack getting much larger

Larsen C is the most northern major ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula, and the fourth largest Antarctic ice shelf overall. It's “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350 metre thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometres in length between 2011 and 2015.
The rift had grown another 22 kilometres since it was last observed in March 2016, and has widened to about 350 meters, report researchers. The full length of the rift is now 130 kilometres.

It may be only a matter of time before the loss of an enormous chunk of Larsen C. In the 1980s the Larsen B ice shelf underwent a large iceberg calving event, setting off a series of similar episodes until the whole shelf disappeared.

Researchers have estimated that the loss of all the ice that the Larsen C ice shelf currently holds back would raise global sea levels by 10 centimetres.

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