'Massive Antarctic ice shelf ready to break'

The iceberg is about the size of DE and would be one of the biggest ever recorded, according to researchers at Swansea and Aberystwyth.

The fissure in the Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown a further 10km since January 1, say researchers, and now extends for some 175 km. This is the fourth-largest ice shelf in the Antarctic, and it represents an increased destabilization in the region.

Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University said, "The rift tip has just entered a new area of softer ice, which will slow its progress".

The break had been a long time coming, and according to The Christian Science Monitor reported the development earlier this week, what began as a tiny crack in the 1960s was now 90 miles wide, and nearly one-third of a mile deep, with most of the change taking place in just the past few years.

"My feeling is that this new development suggests something will happen within weeks to months, but there is an outside chance that further growth will be slow for longer than that".

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While many would be quick to attribute the calving to global climate change, that might not necessarily be the case - it's cracking, not melting.

Researchers have been tracking the rift in Larsen C for many years, following the collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and the sudden break-up of the Larsen B shelf in 2002.

While the calving of the ice shelf wouldn't directly contribute to sea level rise (the ice is already floating on top of the water, like ice in a glass), scientists say the collapse could trigger the melting of land ice the Larsen C is now holding back.

The rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf, including the 6-mile extension in the past two weeks.

The length and width of the crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf over time.

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Floating ice shelves don't raise sea levels when they disintegrate or lose large icebergs.

Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are slowly fed by glaciers from the ice sheet on land.

An image released by Project MIDAS shows the expansion of the crack in recent months. It is the effect of ice sheet disintegration that most worries scientists.

If Larsen C goes the way of A and B, it will join a dozen other major ice shelves that have either broken up or significantly retreated in the last few decades, including Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Wordie, Muller, Jones Channel, and Wilkins, the BBC reports.

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