Larsen-C update: Open ocean visible between iceberg and ice shelf

"With this large calving event, and the availability of satellite technology, we have a fantastic opportunity to watch this natural experiment unfolding before our eyes," said researcher Hilmar Gudmundsson.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 2, 2017 at 12:45 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- New satellite images reveal open ocean between the Larsen-C ice shelf and the massive iceberg that broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula in July.

Since the iceberg calved in early July, the massive chunk of ice has been slowly drifting away from the Larsen-C ice shelf. There is now a three mile gap between the iceberg and ice shelf. Scientists continue to monitor the iceberg and ice shelf.

Over the last few weeks, at least 11 smaller icebergs have formed as fragments of both the iceberg and ice shelf break free. The largest of the smaller icebergs is eight miles long.

The main iceberg stretches 2,239 square miles. It is roughly four times the size of the city of London, and its volume is twice that of Lake Erie. It weighs more than 1 trillion metric tons.

The Large C ice shelf is now 12 percent smaller. And according to new research published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, the ice shelf may be vulnerable to further dramatic calving events in the future.

"The satellite images reveal a lot of continuing action on Larsen-C ice shelf," Anna Hogg, a researcher at the University of Leeds, said in a news release. "We can see that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides important structural support for the remaining ice shelf."

Though a warming climate undoubtedly encourages melting and the weakening of polar ice shelves, ice sheets and glaciers, scientists say the most recent calving event wasn't necessarily triggered by the immediate weather conditions. Instead, the separation may simply be the result of the ice shelf's natural growth and decay cycle.

The separation of the latest iceberg from the Larsen-C ice shelf will not impact sea level rise, but scientists are concerned that the breakdown of coastal ice structures will make inland glaciers and ice sheets more vulnerable to collapse.

"With this large calving event, and the availability of satellite technology, we have a fantastic opportunity to watch this natural experiment unfolding before our eyes," said Hilmar Gudmundsson, researcher with the British Antarctic Survey. "We can expect to learn a lot about how ice shelves break up and how the loss of a section of an ice shelf affects the flow of the remaining parts."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories