Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf is within days of completely cracking

Larsen C ice shelf

ALL CRACKED UP This crack in the Larsen C ice shelf has grown 17 kilometers in recent days.

Jefferson Beck (USRA)/NASA

The rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf continues to rip. Researchers from Project MIDAS, which tracks the effects of a warming climate on the ice shelf, report that the crack grew 17 kilometers between May 25 and May 31.

The crack has now turned toward the water and is within 13 kilometers of the edge of the shelf. Within days, the crack could reach the edge. When that happens, one of the largest icebergs ever recorded will fall into the ocean.

“There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely,” the researchers write.

After calving such a massive section, the shelf won’t be stable. It may experience the same fate as Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002, after a crack there broke off a huge chunk of ice.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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