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Massive ice shelf is poised to break off of Antarctica


One of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point, scientists warn. A colossal crack in this ice shelf, known as Larsen C, abruptly grew by 18 kilometers (11 miles) during the second half of December 2016. (That was the height of the region’s summer.) Members of Project MIDAS, an Antarctic research group, reported the crack’s dramatic growth on January 5. This separating ice is now only about 20 kilometers from Larsen C’s edge.

Satellite images in 2014 revealed that a crack in Larsen C rapidly extended across the ice shelf. If the crack reaches the ice shelf’s edge, it could snap off a Delaware-sized area of ice, researchers reported roughly 18 months ago in The Cryosphere. Such a loss would reduce Larsen C’s size by about 10 percent. That’s enough to shrink the shelf to its smallest size in recorded history. And it could potentially kick start the shelf’s disintegration.



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