During the six days before U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the country from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a massive crack in an Antarctic ice shelf grew 11 miles. The case has been reported by the British Antarctic research group named Project MIDAS.
This crack, which is located in Larson Shelf C, leaves only 8 miles of ice that connects what may represent one of the largest icebergs of this continent ever recorded in history. When it eventually separates from the icy continent, the resulting iceberg would be with a size of 31,000 square miles. This iceberg amounts to 10 % of the original mass of the ice shelf and would be bigger than Rhode Island.
The growth outburst that occurred between May 25 and May 31 was the largest that the members of the Project MIDAS have observed since January this year. The inevitable breaking of Ice Shelf C will cause a drastic change of the landscape of Antarctica and will make the remaining ice less stable. The group says that even though this particular crack wasn’t probably caused by climate change, the disintegration of Antarctic ice shelves additionally increases the sea levels that represent a major threat to coastal cities.
“When [ice shelves] disappear, ice can flow faster from the land to the ocean and contribute more quickly to sea level rise,” Adrian Luckman and Martin O’Leary of Project MIDAS wrote in February.
Rising sea levels endanger largely populated cities like New York, Miami, San Francisco, and New Orleans, and are predicted to force 13.1 million U.S. citizens to relocate from coastal areas by the year of 2100. One of the many reasons for the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the rise of global temperatures was precisely the concern about rising sea levels.
The expectations of Project MIDAS are the ice shelf to behave like the breakup of the Larson Ice Shelf B, that occurred within a two-week span back in 2002.
Scientists behind the Project Midas expect the calving event to be slow and graceful. “The ice is already floating, so when the fracture breaks all the way through, it will simply start to drift away,” the team wrote.
The team of researchers are not certain exactly when this rapidly growing crack will cause the Ice Shelf C to break free from Antarctica, but they believe the rift has now reached an area of soft ice, meaning there is very little holding the ice shelf in one piece.
“We are watching with bated breath,” says the team.
Do you think this event should worry us all? Please share this important news with everyone, so people would be prepared in time.