Map: Growth of Larsen C Rift, August 18, 2016

by Project MIDAS

For almost two years now, [the MIDAS team] has been tracking the progress of a large rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf. This rift, which may threaten the stability of Larsen C, has grown significantly and rapidly during the Antarctic polar night, which is now coming to an end. As of August 2016, the rift is now 22 km longer than when satellites were last able to observe it in March of this year.

As this rift continues to extend, it will eventually cause a large section of the ice shelf to break away as an iceberg. We previously showed that this will remove between nine and twelve percent of the ice shelf area and leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever. The trajectory of the rift now implies that the higher of these two estimates is more likely. Computer modeling suggests that the remaining ice could become unstable, and that Larsen C may follow the example of its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.

The progress of the rift since 2011

The MIDAS Project will continue to monitor the development of the rift and assess its ongoing impact on the ice shelf.