There is a rather large rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf, and it is growing all the time.
At some point it is going to shear off, and a 2,000 square mile slab of ice will be shot into the ocean. We have no idea when this event will take place, but it is inevitable.
Scientists have been monitoring the rift since 2014. While they stopped short of pointing their fingers at climate change as the culprit, it is clear that a warming globe can’t help a situation like this.
The scientists are concerned that this sort of dynamic could be representative of what is possible in West Antarctica. With air and sea temperatures rising the ice could be weakening from above and below, and bigger changes are becoming more likely all the time.
“What we’re worried about is what we’re seeing here is going to happen everywhere else,” Said Thomas Wagner, who is the director of NASA’s polar science in a recent interview with Gizmodo. “[Larsen C] is a natural laboratory for understanding how ice shelves break.”
A natural effect called “iceberg calving” is a geophysical process in Antarctica. And while it is normal, this is one of the largest cases on record. This event has the potential to reshape the entire peninsula, and we simply don’t know what the outcome will be.
The rift is currently over 100 miles long, and up to two miles wide in some places. It is lengthening at a rate of more than 1000 feet per day, though the rate of growth isn’t consistent.
For a long time the growth of the rift was pretty normal, but over the last couple of months it seems to be getting faster.
Martin O’Leary is a glaciologist with UK-based Project MIDAS, a group who is monitoring the rift using satellite imaging. He comments that, “Now we’re paying attention to every satellite image that comes through to see if it jumps again,” according to an interview with Gizmodo.
It will be very interesting to see what happens as a result to this ice shelf breaking loose, and if it has any wider reaching effects on the region.