WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- One of Antarctica’s most intensely monitored ice shelves called Chasm 1 is nearing to break off from the Brunt Ice Shelf, according to scientist Dominic Hodgson from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England.
- Recently, a huge crack estimated by scientist to be 200 meters has been growing in the ice shelf and nearing towards another rift called Halloween Crack.
- Although it cannot be concluded that the iceberg breakaway is a direct result of climate change, there is evidence from previous studies that a sizable chunk of ice has already been lost since 1992 as the continent warms.
A massive iceberg at the bottom of the planet with twice the size of New York City is about to split off from Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf.
“It’s one of the most intensely monitored ice shelves in Antarctica. It’s quite interesting, like a real-time science experiment,” said senior scientist Dominic Hodgson of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who had been keeping an eye on the iceberg through satellite imagery.
After being stable for more than three decades, scientists have been following the progress of a huge crack in the ice shelf dubbed Chasm 1 that started growing recently. In the past month, the rift has extended to 200 meters, stretching northward towards the Halloween Crack, another big rift near the Survey-maintained research facility.
Hodgson said that while the intersecting cracks would mean a “geologically imminent” calving of an iceberg, he added that “we really don’t know” when that will happen.
Is the nearing breakaway direct evidence of climate change?
It’s hard to tell because this occurrence is what ice shelves typically do — “they advance, break off a big iceberg, retreat and then advance again,” according to Christopher Shuman, research scientist at University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology.
However, there is sufficient evidence that as the region warms the ice mass of Antarctica is shrinking. More than 3.3 trillion tons of ice has been lost in the continent since 1992, says a study in 2018.
Regardless of the cause of calving, NASA believes that the iceberg would be the largest to break off the Brunt shelf in more than a century. The biggest ever recorded Antarctic iceberg measured 2,200 square miles when it split off in 2017 from the Larsen C Ice Shelf along Antarctic Peninsula’s east coast.
Once the iceberg breaks off, Hodgson said that he and his team will be using ships to survey the exposed seafloor around the shelf to learn more of the region’s long-term stability.
Source: NBC News