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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

2 Cracks Expanding

2 Cracks Expanding

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, February 24, 2017/Categories: natural history, photography, video, sustainability, environment, climate change

 Larsen-C Ice Sheet Rift, 2-2017 (credit: British Antarctic Survey)

Two cracks, one in Antarctica and the other in the Arctic, continue to grow. They represent dramatic visual examples of what is unfolding at both poles as the climate rapidly changes.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) recently flew a small twin-engine aricraft along a huge rift that is rupturing the Larsen-C Ice Shelf and captured a documentary video. Satellite observations of the Antarctic Peninsula show the crack in Larsen-C could soon become an iceberg more than 3000 square miles in size. The video was gathered as the BAS researchers flew over the ice shelf on their way to gather field equipment. Because of the looming break-up, anticipated as early as the end of April 2017, the British team didn't establish an outpost on the icesheet as in previous years. Satellite monitors will likely observe the mega-iceberg calving when it occurs and less than 20 miles remains attached.

In the northern hemisphere of Yukutia, Siberia, other researchers continue observing a massive "megaslump' growing in the permafrost near the town of Batagaika in Russia. Publishing their findings in Quaternary Research the investigators estimate the soil collapse has exposed ice deposits representing perhaps 200,000 years of permafrost environmental records. Colleagues in Germany have also been monitoring the growth of this Siberian slump uisng satellite imagery over the past 10 years. Working at the Alfred Wegener Institute, they showed large erosional events in permafrost can develop rapidly, particularly after disturbances like deforestation and subsequent soil warming. The results leave behind deep rutted badlands like the one at Batagaika. In their report presented to the American Geogphysical Union (the AGU) recently they noted that:

"Our analysis does not show any signs of stabilization after several decades (since 1980s) of slump growth, with the headwall retreating with observed rates of ~32 feet/year and more recently up to ~95 feet/year. Reconstruction of a paleo-surface revealed the megaslump has now carved up a lenght of 240 feet into the rolling topography."


    Permafrost Slumping,  Batagaika, Yukutia Russia (credit:  Siberian Times, Alexander Gabyshev)

Besides the obvious scientific interest of what is happening to ancient frozen-ground in a remote corner of Russia, the Siberian Times has followed the development of the megaslump for its readers who call the massive hole, a Gateway to the UnderworldIf the environmental causes for these alterations to the permafrost continue at their current pace, many more 'gates to hell' will open elsewhere in the Arctic.



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