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Massive Rift in Antarctic Ice Shelf Spotted in NASA Photograph

Dec 05, 2016 06:32 AM EST

A massive rift in the Antarctica has been spotted by NASA, but the troubling details about the rift is causing the agency to worry. The ice shelf in Larsen C that is close to breaking off is as big as the size of Delaware.

New images taken by the space agency taken on November 10 reveal a crack in the Antarctica ice shelf that is growing in size and depth. Scientists state it will eventually cause a huge part of the ice shelf to break off.

In an association with NASA, scientists with the field campaign called Operation IceBridge had already measured the fracture in Larsen C. It is said to be 70 miles long and more than 300 feet wide. In addition, it is approximately a third of a mile in depth.

"The crack completely cuts through the Ice Shelf but it does not go all the way across it - once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware," stated NASA in a press release.

If the ice shelf does break off, it would reportedly be the largest event since the recorded iceberg calving in 2000. The ice shelves breaking into icebergs might not immediately increase sea levels, but it would be enough to add new waters to the ocean before an alarming sea level increase is noted.

Aside from the Larsen C ice shelf, researchers are also focused on a key glacier in West Antarctic. Research reveals that the ice sheet has been breaking from the inside out, which highly suggest that the warming ocean is weakening the coastal ice shelf from underneath. The study from Ohio State University add that if this continues, sea levels would most likely be raised.

"This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see a significant collapse in our lifetime," stated Ian Howat, the associate professor of earth science the university.

While the effects of the ice sheet melting may not be immediately felt, it may cause sea levels to rise to as high as 10 feet in the next 100 years. This amount would lead to flooding in major cities around the world such as Miami and New York.

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