Spreading crack in Antarctic might create huge iceberg

21 Jan 2017


A huge crack in the Antarctic was spreading that could create one of the biggest icebergs ever seen.

The rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf had grown a further six miles since 1 January.

If it increased another 12 miles it would create an iceberg a quarter the size of Wales.

The EU's Sentinel-1 satellite system had revealed the lengthening crack in the 350 yards thick floating ice shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The fissure now extended for over 100 miles.

According to scientists it was not possible to estimate how long it would be before the 2,000 square miles block finally broke free.

The satellite data was being monitored by researchers at Swansea and Aberystwyth universities, and the British Antarctic Survey.

Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University said, ''The rift tip has just entered a new area of softer ice, which will slow its progress. Although you might expect any extension to hasten the point of calving, it actually remains impossible to predict when it will break because the fracture process is so complex.''

Recent decades, had seen a dozen major ice shelves disintegrate, significantly retreat or lose substantial volume.

Many of the icebergs produced in this region of the Antarctic got swept away by currents and eventually ended up in the vicinity of the British overseas territory of South Georgia.

The break had been a long time coming, and according to The Christian Science Monitor reported the development earlier this week, what began as a tiny crack in the 1960s was now 90 miles wide, and almost one-third of a mile deep, with most of the change taking  place in just the past few years.

While many would be quick to attribute the  calving to global climate change, that might not necessarily be the case - it's cracking, not melting. "This is probably not directly attributable to any warming in the region, although of course the warming won't have helped,"  Luckman told National Public Radio (NPR). "It's probably just simply a natural event that's just been waiting around to happen."

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