Vast Antarc­tic ice­berg set to calve

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

SEAT­TLE: A Delaware-sized ice­berg is very close to split­ting off from one of the largest ice shelves in Antarc­tica, sci­en­tists say, af­ter a fast-grow­ing crack stretched to within 13km of the open ocean this week.

Last month, aerial ob­ser­va­tions showed the crack had shifted to­ward the edge of the ice sheet and the open ocean, lead­ing sci­en­tists to es­ti­mate that an ice­berg more than 300 000 times the size of the one that sunk the Ti­tanic could calve soon. The for­ma­tion of the ice­berg fits within a broader trend of shrink­ing ice shelves in the re­gion, which sci­en­tists be­lieve is linked to global warm­ing.

The crack has grown an ad­di­tional 17km in just the last week, ac­cord­ing to ob­ser­va­tions re­leased by Project Midas, a Euro­pean re­search group which has been mon­i­tor­ing the re­gion, mak­ing the ice­berg’s sep­a­ra­tion im­mi­nent.

“I would ex­pect it to oc­cur quite rapidly, within days or weeks,” Dan McGrath, a sci­en­tist with the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

The 5 000km² chunk of ice has nearly com­pletely bro­ken off the Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth-largest in Antarc­tica. When it does, it will shrink Larsen C by about 10% and leave it with the small­est area ever recorded.

Sci­en­tists from Project Midas 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 that the larger out­come is not guar­an­teed.

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