The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Massive Crack in Larsen C Ice Shelf Grew 11 Miles in 6 Days
The widening crack in Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown even longer. An iceberg the size of Delaware is now precariously hanging on to the main ice shelf by 8 miles of ice.
Scientists with the Antarctic research group Project Midas report that the rift lengthened by another 11 miles between May 25 and May 31 2017—"the largest jump since January" when the crack was 12 miles.
Until recently, the crack was running parallel to the edge of the ice shelf but it took a "significant" turn towards the ocean, "indicating that the time of calving is probably very close," the Project Midas team wrote.
As Project Midas scientist Martin O'Leary explained to Newsweek, "[Until now] the rift has been growing more or less parallel to the ice front, so the amount of ice connecting the berg to the shelf has been more or less constant. However, this time around the rift has curved towards the front, so there's now only 13km [eight miles] remaining."
"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," Project Midas wrote.
After it finally breaks off, the Larsen C ice shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area, leaving the ice front at "its most retreated position ever recorded."
"This event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula," the team stated. "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 neighbor Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 after a similar rift-induced calving event."
Calving events are normal, as NASA explained, but "calving that happens faster than a shelf can re-advance can mean trouble for an ice shelf."
As EcoWatch reported previously, two previous sections of the Larsen ice shelf have broken off and disappeared into the sea. Larsen A collapsed in 1995. Then in 2002, Larsen B began to rapidly break apart. Within six weeks, a 1,235 square mile chunk of ice slipped away, which scientists attributed to warmer air temperatures. Prior to that, the Larsen B ice shelf had been stable for 12,000 years.
It's unclear if Larsen C will respond in a similar ways. Project Midas is monitoring the development of the rift and will assess its ongoing impact on the ice shelf.
The loss of this portion of the ice shelf will not raise sea levels since it is already floating on the water. However, as these ice shelves disintegrate, the land-locked glaciers they hold back may begin sliding into the sea. If all of the ice the Larsen C ice shelf holds back slides into the ocean, it will raise sea levels globally by four inches.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Stuart Braun
A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.
Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.
By Jessica Corbett
Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.
By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.
- Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.