A Major Event Is About to Occur in Antarctica

January 8th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

Ominous signs of climate change's effects on the world's environment continue to mount.

The latest bad news comes from the bottom of the world, where a 2,000-square-mile piece of the Antarctic ice shelf called Larsen C appears poised to break off, according to researchers with the British Project MIDAS.

The piece of the shelf — which is almost the size of the state of Delaware — is slowly separating from the rest of Larsen C: A crack between them has grown by 11 miles in just the last month, and only 12 miles of ice connects it to the rest of the shelf, the researchers said in a statement released earlier this week and reported by The Washington Post.

Should the piece break off as expected, the event "will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula," the researchers said.

Loss of the piece — which constitutes roughly 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf — would accelerate the disintegration of the rest of the shelf, speed the flow of glacial ice from the Antarctic Peninsula into the surrounding ocean, and raise the global sea level by as much as four inches.

Other, smaller ice shelves — called Larsen A and Larsen B — previously disintegrated between 1995 and 2002 in a process generally attributed to climate change.

Larsen C is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica.

Its size and current situation present troubling implications for the world.

As the Antarctic ice shelves break up, they raise sea levels — which could dampen the prospects of many coastal cities.

If all of Larsen C were to break up, the world's oceans would rise between 10 and 13 feet.

The piece of the Larsen C shelf could calve in the next couple of months, the researchers said.