Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf nears breaking point | Science News

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Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf nears breaking point

crack in Larsen C ice shelf

A 100-meter-wide, kilometers-long rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, shown in this image from Nov. 10, 2016, could soon break off a 5,000-square-kilometer chunk of ice into the ocean, scientists warn.

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One of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point, scientists warn. A colossal crack in the Larsen C ice shelf abruptly grew by 18 kilometers during the second half of December 2016, members of the Antarctic research group Project MIDAS reported January 5. The crack is now only about 20 kilometers away from reaching Larsen C’s edge and snapping off a hunk of ice the size of Delaware.

Such a breakup could destabilize the ice shelf — similar to the collapse of Larsen B in 2002, scientists with the project forecast in 2015. Because Larsen C’s ice is floating on the ocean, the breakup won’t directly raise sea levels. But with the ice shelf gone, glacial ice could slip into the sea unabated and contribute to rising sea levels.

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