Glacier Watch: New view of growing Antarctic ice rift
Thursday, February 23, 2017, 2:31 - A vast iceberg, expected to be one of the biggest ever recorded with an area twice the size of Wales or the Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago, is poised to break off Antarctica.
A rift, slowly developing across the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years, expanded abruptly in December, growing by about 11 miles. It is now more than 50 miles long with just 12 miles left before it snaps, scientists said.
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists filmed the almost 1,500 feet wide rift in the Larsen C ice shelf as they flew over the area to collect research equipment.
BAS scientists are involved in a long-running MIDAS (Melt on Ice Shelf Dynamics And Stability) project, a research programme to monitor ice shelves and analyse the causes and implications of the rapid changes observed in the region.
MIDAS scientists said in a statement last month the Larsen C Ice shelf is about to shed an area of more than 1,930 square miles following the rift growth. This, the scientist said, "will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula."
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Ice shelves are areas of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the end of glaciers.
Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves around the frozen continent will allow glaciers inland to slide faster towards the sea as temperatures rise because of global warming, raising world sea levels.
Several ice shelves have cracked up around northern parts of Antarctica in recent years, including the Larsen B that disintegrated in 2002. In some cases, big icebergs simply float around Antarctica for years, causing little threat to shipping lanes as they melt.
More rarely, icebergs drift as far north as South America. Last year was the warmest on record by a wide margin, stoked by greenhouse gases and an El Nino weather event that released heat from the Pacific Ocean, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said in January.
In November last year, almost 200 nations reaffirmed plans to combat climate change as an "urgent duty", worried that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will try to undo a hard-won global accord for limiting greenhouse gas emissions.