Operation IceBridge, a NASA survey of polar ice, is underway, and to say the results are alarming would be an understatement.
On Friday, the IceBridge scientists announced the discovery of a 70-mile long, 300 foot wide rift in the Larsen C ice shelf, located in the Western peninsula of the Antarctic. Other portions of the Larsen ice sheet collapsed in 1995 and 2002, and climate scientists have been speculating for years that this third portion’s days are numbered as well. NASA reported in a recent press release that once the rift cuts through the ice shelf completely, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of Delaware.
Elsewhere in the Antarctic, Ohio State University climate scientists reported last month that part of the West Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing from the inside out. And while rifts normally appear at the edges of the ice sheets, this internal rift is a strange and therefore highly unsettling new development.
Ian Howat, associate professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University, reported, “This implies that something weakened the center of the ice shelf, with the most likely explanation being a crevasse melted out at the bedrock level by a warming ocean.”