Huge Antarctic ice block poised to snap off

Antarctica is one of the world's fastest-warming regions
Antarctica is one of the world's fastest-warming regions

A chunk of ice bigger than the US state of Delaware is hanging by a thread from the West Antarctic ice shelf, satellite images revealed Wednesday.

When it finally calves from the Larsen C ice shelf, one of the biggest icebergs in recorded history will be set adrift—some 6,600 square kilometres (2,550 square miles) in total, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The iceberg's depth below sea level could be as much as 210 metres (almost 700 feet), or about 60 storeys, it said.

"The crack in the ice is now around 200 kilometres (125 miles) long, leaving just five kilometres between the end of the fissure and the ocean," the ESA said in a statement.

"Icebergs calve from Antarctica all the time, but because this one is particularly large its path across the ocean needs to be monitored as it could pose a hazard to maritime traffic."

Scientists tracking the berg's progression expect it to break of within months.

The Larsen C shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its total surface area.

The massive ice cube will float in water and by itself will not add to sea levels when it melts.

The real danger is from inland glaciers.

Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land.

They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean.

If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10 centimetres (four inches), researchers have said.

The calving of occurs naturally, though is believed to have accelerated the process.

Warming water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.

The nearby Larsen A collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B dramatically broke up seven years later.

The ESA is keeping an eye on Larsen C with its Copernicus and CryoSat Earth orbiters.

Man-made global warming has already lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial levels.

Antarctica is one of the world's fastest-warming regions.

The world's nations undertook in the Paris Agreement, inked in 2015, to cap average global warming at "well under" 2 C.


Explore further

Massive Antarctic ice shelf ready to break apart

© 2017 AFP

Citation: Huge Antarctic ice block poised to snap off (2017, July 5) retrieved 23 April 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-07-huge-antarctic-ice-block-poised.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
427 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 05, 2017
I wonder if schneibo, and the rest of the AGW crowd living here, has has finally gotten it figured out why this will not raise ocean levels?


Jul 05, 2017
Benni,
I doubt that they will recognize this as simply natural and not a that other than the danger any iceberg represents.

Jul 05, 2017
I wonder if schneibo, and the rest of the AGW crowd living here, has has finally gotten it figured out why this will not raise ocean levels?

Benni,
I doubt that they will recognize this as simply natural and not a that other than the danger any iceberg represents.


Isn't it cute when, with the whole comments section to themselves, they still have a hard time with basic grammar?

Jul 05, 2017
Isn't it funny how the AGW Cult can only find their GloBull warming in Antarctica, exactly where there is extensive geothermal and seismic activity

Jul 05, 2017
Guy_Underbridge,
My phone sometimes changes what I type in and my phone's browser does not allow me to edit on physorg.

Jul 05, 2017
@Guy_Underbridge: It's not surprising their grammar sucks when their reading comprehension is so poor, too.

"The massive ice cube will float in water and by itself will not add to sea levels when it melts.
The real danger is from inland glaciers.
Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land.
They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean."

Jul 11, 2017
You know what's funny. I think someone will get a couple of tug boats and drag that burg to the highest bidder. Who needs fresh water?

The problem with you denier goons is that you don't see the big picture. You little trolls are just about fox news an your little echo chamber. Sucks to be you. What it reality says is that big burge like this shouldn't even happen in a normal world except for man's influence on the atmosphere.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more