The impending breakaway of what’s expected to be one of the world’s largest icebergs has moved a significant step closer, it’s been claimed.
A crack that could create a block of ice twice the size of Luxembourg – and destabilise one the largest ice shelves in the Antarctic – has branched out and begun to widen more quickly, according to UK-based monitoring group Project Midas.
Scientists have been watching the massive crack slowly develop on the Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth largest in Antarctica, for decades.
But they have noticed it grow dramatically in 2014 and last year forecast the separation of a 5,000-square-kilometre iceberg within years.
Project Midas says a new crack has branched out from the original fissure, making a beeline for the Weddell Sea.
The original crack is also widening by a metre-a-day, but has not got any longer, the monitoring group added.
It is reasonable to link the event and the shrinking ice shelves in Antarctica to global warming, said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who is not connected with project.
An overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity – including the burning of oil, gas and coal – is the main driver of rising global temperatures.
Dan McGrath, a geophysicist and partner of Project Midas, said the combination of the new crack and the faster widening could point to an imminent separation of the iceberg, even as soon as this summer.
Scientists from the group also warned in 2015 that the loss of such a large mass of ice would create a “significant risk” of the shelf as a whole becoming unstable and breaking up, although McGrath cautioned the outcome is not guaranteed.
Larsen C Ice Shelf rift update: No major advance since February, but #Sentinel1 InSAR shows the rift branched in the last 6 days
ESA_EO</a> <a href="https://t.co/7rhjcGjnKs">pic.twitter.com/7rhjcGjnKs</a></p>— Adrian Luckman (adrian_luckman) May 1, 2017