Antarctic Meltdown: The crack widens
The gigantic iceberg is closer to breaking free from Antarctica, as the crack widens on the Larsen C ice shelf.
The crack is approximately 175 kilometres long, 10 km longer than in 2016. Scientists have yet to predict when the iceberg will break off. However, when it does, Larsen C will lose more than 10% (5,000 sq. km) of its area, a quarter the size of Wales, making it one of the largest icebergs recorded in history.
A British research station is currently shutting down and might relocate due to concerns for its staff’s safety amid changes to the ice. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) stated that the changes to the crack presented a “complex glaciological picture”, preventing scientists to predict the ice shelf’s movement in the forthcoming winter. Ice shelves are in constant motion, splitting off icebergs and rising with the tides, making it unpredictable for scientists to determine their outcome.
There is a concern on how the breakage will affect the remaining shelf structure and seawater. Dozens of ice shelves have melted in the past decades, diluting oceans and rising sea levels slightly. Although the melting of floating ice accounts for a small amount of rising sea levels, it could have repercussions in the future. Scientists claim that the influx of freshwater from the melting ice could disturb ocean currents which would result in a drastic climate change. It could also threaten arctic marine life such as pteropods, small shellfish that are the base of the Arctic food chain. This could disrupt the food chain as these creatures get eaten by fish, which in turn get eaten by larger animals.
It is considered a cyclical process for cracks to form on ice shelves and produce icebergs. However, scientists claim that that the forming of this iceberg is rather ‘irregular’ and could have been influenced by global warming. If we keep contributing to global warming, we will eventually melt all the ice, raising sea levels by 65 metres and increasing the average temperature on Earth from 16 degrees Celsius to 27°C. Such changes would redefine the entire landscape, wiping out most cities along the coast.
Image copyright: John Sonntag NASA