This week, scientists are warning that an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware is expected to break off from from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. The iceberg would measure up to 1,900 square miles, making it one the top 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.
The cause is a long-running rift in the Larsen C ice shelf on the most northern portion of Antarctica. In December, the rift suddenly began to grow rapidly. According to researchers from Swansea University, a break of this magnitude could lead to lead to the imminent collapse of the entire ice shelf.
“If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University told BBC News. “There hasn’t been enough cloud-free Landsat images but we’ve managed to combine a pair of Esa Sentinel-1 radar images to notice this extension, and it’s so close to calving that I think it’s inevitable.”
The researchers note that the break would be a geological occurrence as opposed to a climate event. The rift in Larsen C has been slowly developing for decades. The Larsen A shelf collapsed in 1995, while the Larsen B shelf disintegrated in 2002 due to a similar rift.
“We are convinced, although others are not, that the remaining ice shelf will be less stable than the present one,” said Professor Luckman. “We would expect in the ensuing months to years further calving events, and maybe an eventual collapse – but it’s a very hard thing to predict, and our models say it will be less stable; not that it will immediately collapse or anything like that.”