A shocking discovery could be an indicator of a pending disaster just days away from now, one with ramifications felt around the world. Worse yet, it could happen at any time and without warning. Anyone living in a coastal city in the United States should take note at what is about to happen after what was seen as passengers casually flew over a particular area and glanced out of their windows at just the right, or perhaps wrong, time.
According to a story from Business Insider, over the past few months, a large section of the ice shelf in Antarctica has begun to separate from the rest of the continent. The section of ice, which is the size of Delaware, would be among the largest icebergs ever recorded, and once it breaks off and begins to move to warmer waters, sea levels around the world could rise several inches. It is a sobering prospect for anyone living near the ocean anywhere in the world.
A rise in sea level of only an inch could seriously effect homes near the sea and accelerate erosion.
“I would expect it to occur quite rapidly, within days or weeks,” McGrath, who researches Larsen C, told Reuters on Thursday.
Adrian Luckman and Martin O’Leary, both scientists with Swansea University in the UK, say the crack lengthened 11 miles from May 25 to May 31, and that less than that — 8 miles of ice — is all that stands between the birth of an enormous iceberg.
“The rift tip appears also to have turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving is probably very close,” Luckman and O’Leary wrote on Wednesday in a blog post for the Impact of Melt on Ice Shelf Dynamics and Stability project, or MIDAS. “There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely.”
What’s more, Luckman and O’Leary say, the larger swath of the Larsen C ice shelf that sits behind the soon-to-calve iceberg “will be less stable than it was prior to the rift” and may rapidly disintegrate like a neighboring ice shelf did in 2002. Such an event could quickly raise sea levels by several inches.
A natural disaster in the making
Most people are unaware of the Larsen C ice shelf, but it is the leading edge of Antarctic ice closest to Wales. While some may think an Antarctic iceberg would have no effect on us here in the United States, the very opposite is true. Because of the sheer size of the potential iceberg, no coastal city would be unaffected by it.
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Larsen C ice is the leading edge of one of the world’s largest glacier systems. A single large crack in the ice shelf has grown in spurts since 2010, lengthening to about 120 miles.
But sometime between January 1 and May 1, the crack forked in two directions. One fork continued traveling parallel to the Southern Ocean, while the other turned northward toward the water.
That 6-mile fork has increased by another 11 miles, leaving precious little ice holding back a catastrophic calving event and natural disaster.
“When it calves, the Larsen C ice shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded,” Luckman and O’Leary wrote in a blog post on May 1. They say that the slab’s breaking off “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.”
The Larsen C ice shelf is located off of Antarctica’s prominent peninsula and is called a shelf because it floats on the ocean. It’s normal for ice shelves to calve big icebergs as snow accumulation pushes old glacier ice out to sea.
However, the size of the pending Larsen C iceberg and the speed at which it has developed has alarmed some researchers, who suggest that the consequences of it splitting off could be huge.