A rift that has been wending its way across Antarctica's massive Larsen C ice shelf just made another leap forward, growing by more than 10 miles, scientists monitoring it reported Thursday. It would be among the top 10 biggest icebergs ever recorded.
The new iceberg is likely to be about a tenth of the size of the iceshelf it belongs to, called Larsen C, and scientists fear it will be the first of many fractures that will ultimately lead to the demise of the ice shelf - as happened with Larsen A in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002. The break will leave the Larsen C ice shelf very vulnerable to future break-offs.
Experts at the University of Swansea are predicting that it will break away at any moment, Professor Adrian Luckman, told BBC News: "If it doesn't go in the next few months, I'll be amazed". There is now only about 20 kilometres of ice attaching it to Antarctica - and when it splits off, it will form an iceberg as big as a U.S. state or Trinidad and Tobago.
The rift is similar to a previous one that appeared on Larsen B, which caused the ice shelf to separate and disintegrate in 2002.
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If the iceberg did break off, it wouldn't contribute to sea-level rise since it's already floating, said Ted Scambos, a scientist with the data center.
A chunk of ice the size of DE is clinging to an Antarctic ice shelf by "a thread" that could snap at any moment and create one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded, researchers say. Because a calving event looks probable, the team hasn't camped on the ice, as is usual.
To the surprise of scientists, satellite images revealed that the fissure had grown by about 13 miles over just a few months - much faster than its previous pace.
Larsen C is about 350m thick and floats on the seas at the edge of West Antarctica, holding back the flow of glaciers that feed into it. Once the crack goes all the way across, the iceberg will break off.
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He said researchers are no longer camping on the ice due to concerns over the ice mass' stability: "Because of the uncertainty surrounding the stability of the Larsen C ice shelf, we chose not to camp on the ice this season".
According to estimates, if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf now holds back entered the sea, global waters would rise by 10cm. The iceberg itself won't raise sea levels, but it will destabilize Larsen C.
Part of the Larsen C ice shelf is now hanging by only a relative thread after a crack expanded quckly last month.
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