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Is Antarctica breaking apart? Satellite images reveal giant cracks spreading

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Is Antarctica breaking apart? Satellite images reveal giant cracks spreading

This comes shortly after a trillion ton iceberg broke free in July 2017. Now scientists say “We can observe that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides critical structural support for the remaining ice shelf.”

Larsen C rift from the air. Image Credit

Scientists have spotted massive cracks spreading on an Antarctic ice shelf where a trillion ton iceberg broke free not long ago.

New satellite images were presented by experts showing the moment the Antarctic Peninsula lost around ten per cent of its area in July 2017, prompting question whether this is just the beginning?

Ever since the tragic events, scientists have been closely following the fate of the supermassive iceberg as a notorious rift has appeared between the main continent and the mass of frozen water.

However, scientists have now identified new cracks are forming on the ice shelf, and it hey continue to advance, it’s likely that the ice shelf could collapse.

Scientists have warned that if all of Larsen C collapses, the ice it holds back could add around 10 centimeters to Earth’s sea levels over the coming years.

Ever since the trillion ton iceberg broke off in July of 2017, Dr. Anna Hogg, from the University of Leeds and her colleague Dr. Hilmar Gudmundsson, from the British Antarctic Survey and their team members have continued tracking the iceberg dubbed as A68, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel 1 Satellite.

The crack continues to advance. Image credit

So far, scientists have found that since the terrifying breakaway, the massive iceberg hast slowly started to drift away from the Larsen-C ice shelf.

Experts indicate how a massive—five-kilometer gap—is visible between the massive iceberg and Antarctica’s ice shelf.

In addition to the massive iceberg drifting away, experts have identified more than 11 smaller icebergs—with the largest one having a length of more than 13 kilometers.

These smaller icebergs—or Bergy bits as scientists call them—formed after breaking away from both the giant iceberg and the main ice-shelf on Antarctica.

Speaking about the events that have unfolded so far, Dr. Hogg, an ESA research fellow in the center for polar observation and modeling at Leeds said how:

“Satellite images show a lot of continuing action on Larsen-C Ice Shelf. We can observe that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides critical structural support for the remaining ice shelf.”

“If an ice shelf loses contact with the ice rise, either through sustained thinning or a large iceberg calving event, it can incite a significant acceleration in ice speed, and possibly further destabilization. It seems like the Larsen-C story might not be over yet regrettably,” added Dr. Hogg.

Writing in the Nature journal Climate Change, Dr. Hogg and Dr. Gudmundsson analyzed the events that lead to this dramatic natural phenomenon which could reshape the continent in the future, discussing how calving of Massive icebergs directly affects the stability of the ice shelves in Antarctica.

The scientists argue how a calving event does not necessarily have to be related to environmental conditions, and how there are several factors that must be taken into account when looking at the cause.

The scientific duo implies how the events may only reflect a natural growth and decay process of the ice shelf.

“Even though floating ice shelves have only a moderate impact on of sea-level rise, ice from Antarctica’s heart can discharge into the ocean when they collapse,” explained Dr. Gudmundsson. “Consequently we will see an increase in the ice-sheet contribution to global sea-level rise.”

“With this large calving event, in addition to the availability of satellite technology, we have an excellent opportunity to observe this natural experiment unwinding before our eyes. We expect to learn much more about how ice shelves break and how the loss of a section of an ice shelf influences the flow of its remaining parts,” added experts.


(H/T ESA)

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