NASA has recently released an image showcasing the wide rift forming currently in the Larsen Ice Shelf of Antarctica. Researchers believe that this will inevitably lead to its separation as an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware in the US.
The image was taken by researchers flying a NASA aircraft above the rift on November 10, 2016. Researchers have continuously observed the situation and through the recent picture, it has been revealed that the crack in the Antarctic ice keeps getting deeper, longer and even wider. This phenomenon will eventually lead to the separation of a large section of the ice shelf.
Scientists working with NASA’s field campaign, Operation IceBridge, have measured the rift that they’re calling the Larsen C fracture, to be around 70 miles long, over 300 feet wide and one-third of a mile deep.
At the time, the fracture has not extended across the entire ice shelf. However, once it does we will see the formation of the massive iceberg, which is very likely to happen within the next decade. It will be the largest calving event since 2000. Overall, scientists estimate that it will be classified as the third biggest calving ever recorded in the Antarctic.
Larsen C will also be the largest break-off from this particular ice shelf, which also saw the separation of another part known as Larsen B which disintegrated back in 2002 because of a similar crack in the ice shelf. The even garnered the attention of the world as it was even featured in the opening scenes of climate change related movie, The Day After Tomorrow.
Although icebergs don’t directly increase sea levels, as they float around in the ocean, when they separate, they allow the glaciers behind them to move into the sea, as they act like doorstops for the land-based ice. This is what, unfortunately, increases sea levels by adding new water to the ocean.
To make matters worse, the separation of the Larsen C ice shelf will destabilize an even greater portion of the Antarctic ice, the size of Scotland. Researchers also revealed that the rift experienced an increased rate of expansion by 14 miles between March and August 2016.
Image credit: NASA