The location of the rift on Larsen C ice shelf on 31 May 2017. Labels highlight significant jumps. Tip positions are derived from Landsat (USGS) and Sentinel-1 InSAR (ESA) data. Background image blends BEDMAP2 Elevation (BAS) with MODIS MOA2009 Image mosaic (NSIDC). Other data from SCAR ADD and OSM. Graphic: Adrian Luckman / MIDAS Project / Swansea University

By Doyle Rice
1 June 2017

(USA TODAY) – A massive crack in an Antarctic ice shelf grew by 11 miles in the past six days as one of the world's biggest icebergs ever is poised to break off.

The crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is now about 120 miles long, and only eight miles remain until the crack cuts all the way across, producing an iceberg about the size of the state of Delaware.

Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that's keeping watch on the ever-growing crack, said it's the largest jump since January. The full process is known as "calving," the timing of which is "very close," he added.

Once the iceberg breaks off, it "will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula," he said. [more]

Massive crack in Antarctica ice shelf grows 11 miles in only 6 days


By Adrian Luckman and Martin O'Leary
31 May 2017

(Project MIDAS) – In the largest jump since January, the rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown an additional 17 km (11 miles) between May 25 and May 31 2017. This has moved the rift tip to within 13 km (8 miles) of breaking all the way through to the ice front, producing one of the largest ever recorded icebergs. The rift tip appears also to have turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving is probably very close.

The rift has now fully breached the zone of soft “suture” ice originating at the Cole Peninsula and there appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely.

When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable than it was prior to the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.

The MIDAS Project will continue to monitor the development of the rift and assess its ongoing impact on the ice shelf. Further updates will be available on this blog, and on our Twitter feed.

Larsen C takes another step towards calving

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