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Huge Crack Spreading Across Antarctica Ice Shelf

Aug 24, 2016 08:13 AM EDT
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Scientists focused on Antarctica have been keenly observing the rapid progression of a large crack on the ice. The crack on Larsen C, one of the world's greatest ice shelves found on the northern major ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula, is growing to around 350 kilometers. This is as wide as Delaware, according to reports.

Between 2011 and 2015, the crack in Larsen C has grown to 30 kilometers. By 2015, the crack became wider and lengthened to 200 meters. When it was last observed in March 2016, the rift had grown another 22 kilometers and widened 350 meters.

According to a report by Project MIDAS, the rift is now over 130 kilometers or 80 miles. This only means it will take just a little amount of time before an enormous chunk of Larsen C would collapse.

''We previously showed that this will remove between nine and twelve percent of the ice shelf area and leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever,'' explained Adrian Luckman, Daniela Jansen, Martin O'Leary, and members of the Project MIDAS team. ''The trajectory of the rift now implies that the higher of these two estimates is more likely.''

The ice lost would be around 2,316 square miles, approximately the size of Delaware. So when would the ice break off? Researchers claim it would be hard to tell.

''It's hard to tell how soon it could break - we really don't have a good handle on the processes which control the timing of the crack propagation,'' stated O'Leary, adding, ''It's a lot like predicting an earthquake - exact timings are hard to come by. Probably not tomorrow, probably not more than a few years.''

If in the event the ice shelf does cave in, it wouldn't immediately cause a raise in sea levels. Yet, due to the scale of the ice shelf, it could destabilize the entire shelf and result in even more disintegration and release of glacier ice. This would ultimately cause raised sea levels.

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