Twice the size of Luxembourg - one of the world's biggest icebergs gets ready to break away

Twice the size of Luxembourg - one of the world's biggest icebergs gets ready to break away
By Catherine Hardy with BBC
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At twice the size of the European country, experts estimate global sea levels could rise by as much as 10 cm if the Larsen C ice shelf were to break away into the South Atlantic.

Frexit fears

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The UK’s exit from the EU – known in familiar terms as Brexit – is not the only significant global separation experts are preoccupied with.

A Frexit – or Frozen Exit – is threatening to change the face of Antarctica for ever.

The breakaway

Larsen C is the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica.

A long-running rift widened sharply in December.

Now, only a 20 kilometre-wide rift of ice is keeping a 5,000 sq km block from floating off (or “calving”, to give it the scientific term) into the South Atlantic.

A Delaware-sized iceberg may be months away from breaking off Antarctica https://t.co/7OHwgROQdMpic.twitter.com/5Am96zJ6Jh

— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) January 6, 2017

Giant iceberg poised to break off from Antarctic shelf https://t.co/iHmAzgwdXp

— Natan Chandra Rai (@ultimate_source) January 6, 2017

Researchers have been watching the growing gulf for many years.

The Larsen A ice shelf broke away in 1995.

The Larsen B shelf collapsed in 2002.

In numbers: the Larsen C ice shelf

Giant #iceberg break-off in #Antarctica, one of the largest 10 break-offs recorded set to change Antarctic l'scape. https://t.co/ba6ZZrU1j8pic.twitter.com/AjGsP95oqN

— RajeshDaniel (@Rajesh_SEI) January 6, 2017

  • 350 metres thick
  • 5,000 sq km (surface area of breakaway piece)
  • 20 km (the width of the rift)

A post-Frexit world

Experts are not sure what will happen if the giant section of ice breaks away from the Larsen C shelf.

At an estimated 5,000 sq kilometres, the break-off will form one of the top-ten biggest icebergs ever recorded in the world.

It would be twice the size of Luxembourg (2,586 square kilometres).

It is also estimated that if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf currently holds back were to enter the sea, global levels would rise by 10 cm.

A frozen conflict

NEWS! Iceberg insists it can thrive on its own after winning referendum to leave Antarctica https://t.co/hK9lNmsEW8pic.twitter.com/CXj4nhUkhF

— News Thump (@newsthump) January 6, 2017

Read more about the Larsen C ice shelf at Project Midas here

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