A massive iceberg, more than 2,000 square miles in area, is all set to detach itself from one of the largest floating ice shelves in Antarctica and float off into the Weddell Sea, which lies south of the tip of South America. Only three miles of ice continue to connect the iceberg to the Larsen C shelf, said a report by scientists working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the University of California.
According to them, the iceberg will break off from the Larsen C ice shelf because of a crack that has extended to over 100 miles in recent months. Meanwhile, parts of the iceberg have already detached and begun to move rapidly towards the sea, said Adrian Luckman, a scientist monitoring Larsen C at Swansea University in Wales, according to Chicago Tribune.
The breaking off of the iceberg will not cause global warming, scientists say. But they fear it could destabilise the larger ice shelf, which is believed to be over 600 feet thick and contain roughly 1 trillion tons of ice.
The Larsen A ice shelf, far closer to the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula – which experiences warmer temperatures – collapsed in 1995. In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf, its southern cousin, situated slightly closer to the South Pole, also collapsed. But Larsen C is subject to cooler temperatures and is now breaking off, leading to fears of global warming impact.
However, scientists are divided on the impact of this split. Some believe that the breaking off of the iceberg may be a sign of global warming while others disagree. “We do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C. Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia,” said Helen Amana Fricker, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, according to The Guardian.