Larsen C Ice Shelf In Antarctica To Crack Soon; To Produce Biggest-ever Iceberg When It Breaks

The Larsen Ice Shelf is a long, fringing ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea. Named after Captain Carl Anton Larsen, the master of Norwegian whaling vessel Jason, it extends along the east coast of Antarctic Peninsula. It’s a series of shelves that occupy distinct embayments along the coast –  from north to south, the segments are called Larsen A (the smallest), Larsen B, and Larsen C (the largest) by researchers who work in the area. Further south, Larsen D and the much smaller Larsen E, F, and G are also named.

image source: ESA

Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica on the verge of cracking completely

There have been several reports about the breakup of the ice shelf ever since the 1990s. The collapse of Larsen B ice shelf in 2002 was particularly dramatic, revealing a thriving chemotrophic ecosystem half a mile below the sea. And now, crack in Larsen C ice shelf is sending alarming signals. The crack continues to add space equivalent to five football fields every day.

Starting this year January, the crack has been growing at a rapid pace – by about 6 miles per month. What’s raising alarms now is the fact that it will eventually result in a huge chuck calving, creating one of the largest icebergs ever seen. Icebergs are formed when ice shelves break. They are dangerous and pose challenges to navigation.

image source: Larsen B Shelf (image source: NASA)

“When the ice shelf calves this iceberg it will be one of the largest ever recorded — but exactly how long this will take is difficult to predict”, ESA said in a statement.

The ESA has released the images depicting the growing crack in Antarctica’s Larsen-C ice shelf. The ice shelves are seen as so very important because they act as buttresses which hold back the ice that flows towards the sea. Without ice shelves, sea levels will rise dramatically, leading to potential floods in low-lying land areas.

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