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Cracks in Antarctica

Cracks in Antarctica

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, December 14, 2016/Categories: natural history, photography, sustainability, environment, climate change

                              Larsen Ice Sheet Crack, 11-10-16 (credit: Operation Icebridge)

A massive crack in the Larsen-C ice sheet has been photographed by NASA in Antarctica. Operation Icebridge observed the rift during an airborne survey of ice fields in November, summer in Antarctica. Ice shelves are the floating portions of glaciers when they reach the sea. They hold back ice that sits on solid ground inland. When sections of a shelf collapses, the ice once behind it surges toward the ocean.

According to the NASA announcement:

"The IceBridge scientists measured the Larsen-C fracture to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep. The crack completely cuts through the ice shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware. A smaller ice shelf section disintegrated in 2002 after developing a rift similar to the one now growing in Larsen-C."

Early suspicion relates to warmer waters underneath the ice shelf. Most temperature increases in the atmosphere due to climate change has been absorbed by the oceans that creates conditions encouraging undersea melting. If the entire Larsen glacier were to collapse, the water produced from icebergs would add feet to sea level rise worldwide.



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