Scientists say Antarctic shelf close to calving huge iceberg

New updates from researchers from Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Wales who are now working with Project MIDAS show that the crack grew 11 miles in just 6 days between May 25 and May 31.

The process, known as calving, happens periodically but researchers are watching closely to see whether climate change is affecting the phenomenon. An iceberg the size of DE is now precariously hanging on to the main ice shelf by 8 miles of ice.

"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".

The UK's Project Midas, in collaboration with researchers from Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities in Wales, and other institutions has been monitoring a crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf since 2011.

The rift in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf continues to rip. The U.S. state of DE isn't much larger than that.

While icebergs are normal, scientists attribute the collapse or retreat of several ice shelves in recent decades to global warming.

Dr Cook said, once it broke off, the ice shelf would lose 10 percent of its area, threatening the stability of the rest of the shelf. This is raising alarm bells in the science community, since such floating sections of ice serve as doorstops for the land-based glaciers behind them, and when the ice shelves erode or break apart, they can cause the land ice to flow faster into the sea.

On its own, the huge ice cube would not add to sea level rise. However, it is widely accepted that warming ocean and atmospheric temperatures have been a factor in earlier disintegrations of ice shelves elsewhere on the Antarctic Peninsula, most notably Larsen A (1995) and Larsen B (2002).

The Larsen Ice Shelf is actually a series of shelves that's been breaking up since the 1990s.

Similar calving events on the more northerly Larsen A and Larsen B ice shelves eventually led to their total break-up.

The West Antarctic ice sheet holds enough frozen water to raise the average sea level by about six metres (20 feet).

Chief among those is the destabilization of major glaciers in Western Antarctica connected to the interior portion of the larger Antarctic ice sheet.

  • Carolyn Briggs