New crack in Larsen C Ice Shelf veers toward ocean

Previously, we reported for the PBS NewsHour that the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica had developed a huge, 1,500-foot-wide crack that threatened to slough off an iceberg the size of Delaware into the ocean.

That rift had slowed its forward progress since February, but it has continued growing in width. Last week, that all changed.

Newly analyzed satellite data by the UK’s Project MIDAS has revealed that a branching crack has split off from the original rift. Even more worrisome is the fact that this new fissure is veering toward the water, speeding up the timetable for when the ice is predicted to break off.

Satellite data, top left, shows that a new crack has formed in the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

Satellite data, top left, shows that a new crack has formed in the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

The Project MIDAS researchers are saying it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ this record-setting piece of ice falls into the ocean. “When it calves,” the team wrote in a blog post, “the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.”

With the new crack growing at a rate of several meters a day, a massive calving event is imminent in the near future.