One of the largest icebergs on record has broken away from an ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula early July 12, 2017. Satellite footage confirmed the trillion-ton iceberg, expected to be named A68 by scientists, has broken off from the Larsen C segment of the Larsen ice shelf. Once 31,000 square miles, the Larsen C ice shelf is now 12% smaller in area — changing the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula forever.
Swansea University has been running the Midas Project for years and has been recording the ice crack on the Larsen C ice shelf since 2011. Scientists noted that the growth of the ice crack grew exponentially within the last three months; the rift saw a 10.5 mile growth between May 25 and May 31, the largest increase since January. In late June, the crack in the ice shelf would regularly grow 6+ miles per day.
In the end, the rapid growth proved to be too much for the Larsen C ice shelf. Satellite images show that the rift branched multiple times on the Antarctic surface, leading scientists to believe that further ice calving will occur over the next couple of years.
Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead researcher of the Midas project, states, “The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments… Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters.” The team will continue their research on the 2,500 square mile iceberg and the fractured Larsen C ice shelf for years to come.
Although the trillion-ton iceberg calved from the ice shelf, it was already floating and will not have any immediate impact on sea level. Like other ice calving events, the Larsen C ice shelf fracture was natural, with no direct evidence of climate change playing a role in this particular event. However, the fracture left the Antarctic peninsula in a vulnerable position.
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