Lonely Planet Writer

An iceberg a quarter of the size of Wales is poised to break off in Antarctica

An iceberg that’s a quarter the size of Wales is poised to break off from an ice shelf in Antarctica, after a rift that’s been there for decades experienced a sudden growth spurt towards the end of 2016.

The Larsen C Ice Shelf is primed to break up.
The Larsen C Ice Shelf is breaking up. Image by Press Association

The Larsen C Ice Shelf is primed to lose a sizeable chunk of 5000 square kilometres (1900 square miles) after the existing crack suddenly grew by a whopping 18 km (eleven miles) in the second half of December.

graph
The rift that has emerged on the past 7 years. Image by: Projectmidas.org

Scientists from the Midas project, which is based at Swansea University and Aberystwyth University, have been studying the Larsen C Ice Shelf for three years and have said the iceberg is now “hanging by a thread”. This current event is not actually the ice shelf collapsing, but it does mean that in years or decades to come, Larsen C may follow the course of its unfortunate sibling Larsen B, which splintered and collapsed in the space of a month in 2002, they said.

The existing rift suddenly grew over Christmas time.
The existing rift suddenly grew over Christmas time.  Image by NASA/John Sonntag/PA

The growth in the crack was not “directly” associated with climate change, though warming temperatures in the Antarctic won’t have helped the stability of the ice, lead researcher from Swansea University Professor Adrian Luckman said.

//