A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

July 6, 2017 by  
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A gargantuan iceberg is set to break away from an Antarctic ice shelf within days — or even hours. Initially discovered by UK researchers in 2010, the nascent iceberg has been rapidly calving since 2016. Once the crack in the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf is complete, the resulting iceberg will stretch an astonishing 277 cubic miles, and it’ll be an 620 feet thick. That’s enough mass to fill more than 460 million Olympic-size pools — or nearly all of Lake Michigan . The news was shared in a European Space Agency press release . Europe’s ice-monitoring satellite CryoSat took the most precise measurements to date to determine the iceberg’s thickness. Though a bounty of information has been obtained, researchers still aren’t sure what will happen when the iceberg breaks off. Said Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds. “It could, in fact, even calve in pieces or break up shortly after. Whole or in pieces, ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands .” As a side note, the Falkland Islands lie more than 1,000 miles away from Larsen C. According to Adrian Luckman of Swansea University in the UK, once the iceberg breaks off, the rest of the shelf “will be less stable than it was prior to the rift.” In other words, there is a small chance the natural phenomenon’s formation could cause the entire Larsen C ice shelf to disintegrate and fall into the ocean over time. While some scientists are concerned the development may result in sea levels rising up to four inches, Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist who studies Antarctic ice for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, perceives the shelf breaking off as a natural — and expected — occurrence. In an opinion column for The Guardian , she wrote, “Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia — on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica .” As for now, it is impossible to know when, exactly, the rift will snap. Satellite images show that it is likely to be soon, however. “New Sentinel-1 data today continues to show the rift opening more rapidly. We can’t claim iceberg calving yet, but it won’t be long now,” wrote Martin O’Leary, another glaciologist with Swansea’s Project MIDAS, on Twitter late June. The Sentinel-1’s measurements show that the crack just needs three more miles to cut off the giant iceberg . + European Space Agency Via The Guardian Images via John Sonntag/Nasa , Swansea University

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A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

Fractured Antarctic ice sheet will create the largest iceberg ever recorded

June 1, 2017 by  
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Due to global warming and rising temperatures, glaciers are slowly melting – and, in some cases, breaking apart. A massive 8-mile crack is steadily growing along Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf – and when it splits, the resulting iceberg will be around 1,930 square miles (5,000 square kilometers) in size. That’s as big as Delaware – making it quite possibly the largest iceberg ever recorded. CNN reports that because the ice shelf’s direction has changed, it is breaking away from the rift at a fast pace. Adrian Luckman, lead researcher in UK-based research team Project MIDAS, said: “The rift tip appears to have turned significantly towards the ice front, indicating that the time of calving (breaking away) is probably very close. There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely.” When the gargantuan formation does fully break away from the rift, “the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area,” wrote Luckman. The resulting event “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.” Researchers are concerned the rift’s change of direction and the sheer size of the iceberg will result in problems. For instance, Poul Christoffersen of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge is concerned that the whole ice shelf will disintegrate as a result of the event. “The ice shelf can and probably will undergo a rapid collapse,” he told the press. “And this isn’t a slow process — it can happen in a day or two.” Related: Dubai firm wants to tow icebergs from Antarctica for fresh water Researchers are also concerned that climate change is resulting in larger iceberg formations and thinner ice shelves around Antarctica. Said Christofferson, “The ice shelves that are collapsing are getting bigger and bigger.” When glaciers melt and break apart, sea levels rise – which results in increased flooding and natural disasters . Christofferson added, “We need to make sure that we curtail our emissions of carbon dioxide so that we don’t destabilize the big ice shelves. If we go on with business as usual, we are playing with potential changes in sea levels that will affect millions and millions of people.” Via CNN Images via Wikimedia Commons , Wikipedia

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Fractured Antarctic ice sheet will create the largest iceberg ever recorded

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