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article imageCrack in Larsen C Ice Shelf grows 11 miles in six days

By Karen Graham     Jun 1, 2017 in Environment
In the largest growth rate to date, the crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf grew an astounding 17 kilometers (11 miles) between May 25 and May 31, 2017, leaving only 13 kilometers (eight miles) left before it breaks off.
The U.K.'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 crack in Larsen C grew about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) between 2011 and 2015. And while the crack grew in length, it also became wider, and by 2015, the crack was an astonishing 200 meters (656 feet) wide. By August 2016, researchers found the rift had grown another 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) and widened to about 350 meters (1.148 feet).
On May 31, 2017, the unusually fast growth of the rift in just six days to only eight miles from the ice front prompted Project Midas researchers to issue their report, writing that "the rift has turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving is probably very close."
Latest imagery on May 31  2017.
Latest imagery on May 31, 2017.
Adrian Luckman, Martin O'Leary /Project Midas
When the iceberg breaks away, it will be around 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) — about the size of the state of Delaware. It goes without saying that the iceberg will be one of the largest ever recorded. It will also mean the loss of 10 percent of the ice shelf.
Adrian Luckman, the lead researcher with Project MIDAS wrote in his report: "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."
There is real concern over the breaking off of the massive iceberg because scientists fear the event will further weaken the rest of the ice shelf, causing it to collapse like the Larsen A in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002. It only took a month for the Larsen B Ice Shelf to collapse, and that was due to an influx of mild air, reports Live Science.
Antarctica s major ice shelf areas.
Antarctica's major ice shelf areas.
Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center
Poul Christoffersen of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge is concerned that the rift's change of direction and the massive size of the iceberg being produced could cause the whole ice shelf to disintegrate. "The ice shelf can and probably will undergo a rapid collapse," he told CNN. "And this isn't a slow process -- it can happen in a day or two." He added an ominous warning - The calving event "could be the precursor event to something really dramatic," he said.
More about Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctica, Project Midas, Iceberg, largest on record
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