Jun 9, 2017

A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Is 8 Miles From Creating an Iceberg the Size of Delaware

by
Jugal K. Patel
,
New York Times

...

If it breaks at the crack, Larsen C will be at its smallest size ever recorded.

The ice front would also be left much closer to the ice shelf’s compressive arch, a line that scientists say is critical for structural support. If the front retreats past that line, the northernmost part of the shelf could collapse within months. It could also significantly change the landscape of the Antarctic peninsula.

“At that point in time, the glaciers will react,” Dr. Rignot said. “If the ice shelf breaks apart, it will remove a buttressing force on the glaciers that flow into it. The glaciers will feel less resistance to flow, effectively removing a cork in front of them.”

According to Dr. Rignot, the stability of the whole ice shelf is threatened.

“You have these two anchors on the side of Larsen C that play a critical role in holding the ice shelf where it is,” he said. “If the shelf is getting thinner, it will be more breakable, and it will lose contact with the ice rises.”