Giant ice shelf in Antarctic set to travel

Larsen C Ice-Shelf set to depart Antarctica

A massive ice shelf in Antarctica is getting ready to float free from that continent. It has been compared in size to the American state of Rhode Island. It represents about 2300 square miles of ice. It’s a 1000 foot thick slab of ice.

Cracks in the Larsen Ice Shelf first started showing up in 2011, widened in early 2016 and are now about 300 feet wide along a 70 mile stretch. Scientists are unsure when it will break free to drift north and melt, taking months to melt completely. It is not expected to raise the oceans’ level because this portion of the ice shelf was already floating.

Scientists are not in full agreement as to the fate of the ice resting behind the currently collapsing ice. The general consensus is that it is fairly stable and will not quickly follow but scientists thought that when Larsen B collapsed a dozen years ago that the ice behind it would not follow. It did and quickly added to the world’s sea levels.

It is estimated that if the rest of the Larsen C ice formation flows into the Weddell Sea it will raise the sea levels by approximately four inches(9 cm).

As the climate of Earth warms, more of the water locked in the polar regions melts. The best data available pegs the ocean level rise since 1880 at about eight inches on average. This exposes the coast lines to more storm surges and flooding as well as salt incursion into coastal fresh water tables. Millions of people will have their lives impacted by the changing coastlines.

2016 was the hottest, on average, since records were kept. 2015 was the hottest before that.

Further Reading:

Surging Seas                                

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