Researchers with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have released alarming footage of a massive crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula, which could give way to an iceberg the size of Halifax.
The footage, captured by researchers as they flew over the ice shelf on their way to collect equipment, lends evidence to recent satellite observations that suggest an iceberg with an area of over 5,000 square kilometres is likely to break off soon. By comparison, the regional municipality of Halifax measures about 5,490 square kilometres.
WATCH: Larsen B ice shelf is rapidly thinning
According to the BAS, it’s unclear whether the potential iceberg break is a sign of global warming because ice shelves tend to produce icebergs every few decades. However, researchers note there is “good scientific evidence” to show that climate change has caused the ice shelf to thin.
“Iceberg calving is a normal part of the glacier life cycle, and there is every chance that Larsen C will remain stable and this ice will regrow. However, it is also possible that this iceberg calving will leave Larsen C in an unstable configuration,” said Dr. Paul Holland, ice and ocean modeller with the BAS.
“We won’t be able to tell whether Larsen C is unstable until the iceberg has calved and we are able to understand the behaviour of the remaining ice.”
Ice shelves – sheets of floating ice – wrap around three-quarters of the South Pole’s coastline, providing protection and support for inland glaciers.
Scientists have been watching this crack for quite some time and scientists have been quick to dispel alarm about the growing rift, for the time being.
In January, new images showed the crack in the Larsen C shelf grew 18 kilometres in a few weeks, making it about 97 kilometres long and 100 metres wide. University of Colorado scientist Ted Scambos has estimated the iceberg could break off as soon as March.
— With a file from The Associated Press