A massive piece of ice has broken off the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula and it’s one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. Scientists don’t believe the cause of this break is global warming at the moment, but it does serve as a preview as to how icebergs will break apart once global warming effects begin.
The crack along the ice shelf has been recorded as 120 miles long and it was confirmed today, July 12, that the iceberg has broken free. Project Midas, a research team from Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Britain, has been monitoring the area and claims the Antarctic Peninsula landscape has been fundamentally changed.
Adrian Luckman from Project Midas said, “The remaining shelf will be at its smallest ever known size… This is a big change. Maps will need to be redrawn.”
“While it might not be caused by global warming, it’s at least a natural laboratory to study how breakups will occur at other ice shelves to improve the theoretical basis for our projections of future sea level rise,” said NASA official Thomas P. Wagner.
Dr. Eric Rignot of the University of California, who has done extensive research on polar ice, said the following.
“If the ice shelf breaks apart, it will remove a buttressing force on the glaciers that flow into it. The glaciers will feel less resistance to flow, effectively removing a cork in front of them… You have these two anchors on the side of Larsen C that play a critical role in holding the ice shelf where it is… If the shelf is getting thinner, it will be more breakable, and it will lose contact with the ice rises… As climate warming progresses farther south… it will affect larger and larger ice shelves, holding back bigger and bigger glaciers, so that their collapse will contribute more to sea-level rise.”
Whether or not global warming caused this particular iceberg break, it provides a scary glimpse at possible global disasters in the not too distant future.