The Larsen C iceberg, approximately the size of Delaware, has been separating from Antarctica for decades and appears to be hastening its departure.
Larsen C is the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica, with an area of about 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi).
The giant iceblock is on the leading edge of one of the world’s largest glacier systems. Larsen C is roughly 350 m thick and floats on the seas to the edge of West Antarctica. It is named for Captain Carl Anton Larsen, the master of the Norwegian whaling vessel Jason, who sailed along the ice front as far as 68°10′ South during December 1893.
Martin O’Leary is a Research Officer at Swansea University and a member of Project MIDAS, a United Kingdom – based Antarctic research project.
“The calving of this large iceberg could be the first step of the collapse of Larsen C ice shelf, which would result in the disintegration of a huge area of ice into a number of icebergs and smaller fragments”, said glaciologist David Vaughan from the British Antarctic Survey in a press release. In the second half of December 2016, it grew by a whopping 18 kilometers (11.2 miles).
Researchers say there’s no evidence yet directly linking the collapse to climate change. Icebergs will calve off continental masses during both times of increasing and decreasing ice mass.
The Larson C’s collapse won’t directly contribute to rising sea levels, but ice shelves, hold back huge volumes of ice that enter the ocean and raise sea levels, as happened in 1995 when the Larson A ice shelf broke off and again in 2002 with the collapse of the Larson B shelf.