A vast slice of the Antarctic’s Larsen C ice shelf is poised to break off in the next few months and form one of 10 biggest icebergs we’ve ever seen. If the iceberg does cleave, and it looks like it will, it’ll be the result of a rift on the ice shelf that’s been growing steadily over the past few decades. The rift suddenly grew by about 11 miles in December and is now 50 miles long with only 12.5 miles to go before it completely breaks away. The warmer water below and warmer air above the ice shelf could have contributed to the rift’s sudden growth, but scientists have no direct proof at this point in time.
Swansea University professor and leader of the team monitoring the rift, Adrian Luckman, told BBC that if the iceberg doesn’t “go in the next few months,” he’ll be amazed. “There hasn’t been enough cloud-free Landsat images but we’ve managed to combine a pair of Esa Sentinel-1 radar images to notice this extension, and it’s so close to calving that I think it’s inevitable,” he added.
The real problem with the iceberg breaking off is that it could affect the rest of Larsen C. Its neighboring ice shelf called Larsen B shattered into thousands of pieces back in 2002, after all. If Larsen C suffers the same fate, global waters would rise by around 8 inches and could damage coastal habitats.