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One of the biggest Antarctic ice shelves is at breaking point
Posted on 01/06/2017 , Modified on 02/06/2017

EnvironmentFrance

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Scientists are deeply concerned after a huge crack has appeared in one of the Antarctica's largest ice shelves, threatening to split it in half.

Area a quarter the size of wales poised to break off

Area a quarter the size of wales poised to break off
andreanita/123RF

In the past few days, the European Union's Sentinel-1 satellites have noticed that a fissure in The Larsen C Ice Shelf has widened and extended towards the ocean. There is a strong possibility that the berg could be halved.

The crack currently extends approximately 200km in length, tracing the outline of a possible iceberg that covers around 5,000 sq km - an area about a quarter of the size of Wales.

Swansea University's Prof Adrian Luckman gave further details, speaking to the press saying: "The rift has propagated a further 16km, with a significant apparent right turn towards the end, moving the tip 13km from the ice edge".

This news comes days after reports that the frozen continent is turning green because warm temperatures has caused an explosion in moss growth.

The large chunk of ice that the shelf could soon lose amounts to 10% of its surface area. According to findings by the Swansea researchers, this would make it more unstable meaning it is more likely the entire shelf would soon disintegrate. This would not be surprising given that when Larsen A and Larsen B ice shelves were halved, they eventually collapsed

Indeed, this is a growing trend as rising temperatures due to carbon emissions are causing the icebergs to melt. In only the last few decades, several ice shelves have fragmented or shrunk - including Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller, Jones Channel, and Wilkins.

When the split happens, the iceberg will gradually float away from the ice shelf "It's unlikely to be fast because the Weddell Sea is full of sea-ice, but it'll certainly be faster than the last few months of gradual parting. It will depend on the currents and winds," affirmed Prof Luckman.

The shelf will continue to be closely monitored as the Antarctic moves into the dark months.

This worrying development comes at a time when a united front by world leaders to tackle climate change is looking increasingly uncertain. U.S president Donald Trump, who as previously stated that he thinks climate change is a 'hoax', has rolled back many Obama environmental regulations and is set to make an announcement in the coming days where it is expected he will pull out of the Paris agreement.

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