I’ve posted some sobering reports on the impact of climate change on the Antarctic in recent months, but this one may be the most stunning of all. According to an article published by The New York Times yesterday, a crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, signaling a possible complete collapse in the coming months, potentially creating the largest iceberg ever recorded.
According to scientists who have been monitoring the crack, it has grown by as much as 17 miles in the past two months. According to the Times, the speed at which it is spreading is accelerating as well, now growing at a rate of more than five football fields each and every day. At this point, the crack is now just 20 miles away from reaching its end point, which will result in the entire chunk of ice breaking free and slipping into the ocean, something that could happen as early as April or May of this year.
This is alarming for a number of reasons. Not only will it create the biggest iceberg of all time, but as that iceberg begins to float away from the frozen continent, it will begin to melt, and possibly breaking up into smaller icebergs that could cause problems for ships. But, more importantly, the ice shelf serves as a buffer between the ocean waters and the glaciers that sit on the continent itself. Without the ice shelf to help protect it, the glaciers will begin to melt at a much higher rate too, and will tumble directly into the water. If this continues to happen across Antarctic – and evidence suggests it will – we could see the start of a major rice in ocean levels around the world.
I know that there are still a lot of people out there who want to deny the impact of climate change. But, there is something happening to our planet, and the polar regions are the canary in the coal mine. In recent years, we’ve seen substantial change in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and those changes only seems to be speeding up. Perhaps with the austral winter now nearly upon us, we’ll see things slow down at least temporarily, but the Larsen Ice Shelf is about to collapse, and at this point it isn’t a question of “if” but “when.”
To find out more about his, check out the entire story at NYTimes.com.