A rapidly spreading rift is set to loosen a 660 square mile iceberg away from Antarctica.
The iceberg twice the size of New York City is about to break away because of a spreading crack in the ice. The rift known as a Halloween crack is set to intersect with another tear (fissure) causing the break away.
As noted by NASA, the crack in the ice shelf was stable for about 35 years, before it recently started accelerating northwards as fast as 4 kilometers per year.
The crack started in an area known as the McDonald Ice Rumples. The rumples are created due to the way that the ice flows over an underwater formation. Because of this, the rumples impede the flow of ice and causes pressure waves, crevasses, and rifts to form at the surface.
The process of ice breaking away is known as calving and is usually a natural occurrence. However, NASA are worried that because of the unfamiliar changes to the environment on the ice shelf, they believe that the entire Brunt ice shelf faces uncertainty.
They state, quite ominously:
It is not yet clear how the remaining ice shelf will respond following the break, posing an uncertain future for scientific infrastructure and a human presence on the shelf that was first established in 1955.
Once it breaks away, the iceberg will be the largest piece of ice to break free from the Brunt Ice Shelf since scientists began monitoring the area.
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) February 26, 2019
However, this sheet of ice won’t be the biggest to break away from Antarctica. As pointed out by The Guardian, the largest ever icebergs calved from the Larsen C ice shelf was 2,200 square miles wide. That’s nearly twice the size of the US state of Delaware.
That being said, it’s further proof that we’re losing ice at a faster rate than ever before. This melting and loosening of ice shelves will continue to cause the rise of sea levels around the world.
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