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article imageSatellite images shows Larsen C ice shelf crack spreading rapidly

By Karen Graham     Apr 18, 2017 in Environment
The latest images from NASA's Terra Satellite shows the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is spreading rapidly, raising the possibility that an iceberg may soon be calved.
In December, Digital Journal reported on the progression of the ever-growing crack on the Larsen C ice shelf. On November 10, satellite images showed the crack was getting wider, longer and much deeper. It was about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep.
However, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), as part of the MIDAS Project, reported on January 6 that during the second half of December, the rift suddenly grew an additional 18 kilometers (11.2 miles), leaving only a thread, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) long left holding the ice shelf together.
Incredible image of crack in the Larsen C ice shelf.
Incredible image of crack in the Larsen C ice shelf.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The latest information on the growing rift
As of this month, Terra Satellite images show that only 10 miles (16 kilometers) of ice is left between the end of the crack and the open sea, reports NASA. And when that crack finally reaches the ocean, a massive iceberg about the size of the state of Rhode Island will break off.
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Larsen C is the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica, with an area of almost 20,000 square miles (50,000 square kilometers). The calving event will remove approximately 10 percent of the ice shelf's mass, according to Project MIDAS researchers. The calving event might destabilize the ice shelf, which could result in a collapse similar to what occurred to the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002.
The satellite images not only capture the crack s length  but also the  texture  of the ice shelf wi...
The satellite images not only capture the crack's length, but also the "texture" of the ice shelf with smooth ice depicted as blue and rougher areas — like the rift and open water — as orange. Credit: Jesse Allen/NASA Earth Observatory
The geological and ecological impacts
Cracks and calving on the front edge of an ice shelf are a normal part of glacial cycles. That being said, When the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed and disintegrated in 2002, it had a rift that is similar to what is seen in the Larsen C shelf today. One huge difference between the two ice shelves is that when the Larsen C ice shelf breaks away, it will be an event that's 10-times bigger than when the Larsen B broke away.
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Scientists are watching Larsen C closely to see what will happen when the ice shelf breaks away. Why? Because it could be an early step toward the complete disintegration of the ice shelf. Remember now, ice shelves hold the land and glaciers in place, and the complete loss, including the land-based ice is what increases sea levels.
The breakup of the northern section of the Larsen B ice shelf is shown in this image from the Multi-...
The breakup of the northern section of the Larsen B ice shelf is shown in this image from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR). The collapse occurred during February and March, 2002.
When the calving event occurs, it will have a more pronounced impact on the Earth's ecological balance. What we are seeing on Larsen C has implications for the big ice shelves farther south that hold considerable (sea level potential),” said Eric Rignot, a member of NASA’s sea level change science team. “The loss of these larger ice shelves and resulting acceleration of glacial calving could amount to meters of sea level rise in decades and centuries to come.”
More about Antarctica, Larsen C ice shelf, calving event, collapse of entire ice shelf, terra satellite
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