Scientists observing the Larsen C ice shelf have deduced that its split is “imminent,” and that it would create one of the largest icebergs ever.
The iceberg is currently attached to the shelf, but is moving at a rate faster than ever, Tech Times reports. As of now, the potential iceberg is moving at roughly 32 feet per day. While the researchers are unsure of when exactly the split will occur, they do warn that it could happen within “hours, days, or weeks.”
There’s a long stretch of ice attaching the iceberg to the shelf, but there’s no way to tell how long that connection will last, given the rapid movement of the ice. The iceberg is tethered to the western shore, and when it does break, it will “fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.”
The Midas research team warned that the split could cause a chain reaction further down the shelf, which would result in the Larsen C ice shelf breaking into smaller icebergs. When an iceberg broke off from the Larsen B ice shelf, the entire thing splintered.
The iceberg that would break off from Larsen C would be about the size of Delaware, but it would not have too much of an impact on sea levels. But if the break caused the rest of the ice shelf to splinter, then there could be a rise in sea levels.
A member of Midas said,
If you remove an ice shelf, all of the glaciers that used to feed into it start putting more ice out into the ocean and that’s where you get your potential contributions to sea level rise.
The researchers are unsure yet of what might be causing the split. Water temperatures have risen in the Antarctic, but it’s difficult to point to this as the sole reason. Icebergs breaking off are a fairly regular occurrence, but this one stands out due to its size, and potential effects.