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2020: Antarctic ice shelf could collapse

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/18/2015 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Larsen B ice shelf expected to calve, disintegrate

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and those polar ice caps keep right on melting. Things have deteriorated so badly - especially the Larsen B ice shelf, that scientist now fear the entire Antarctica ice shelf will collapse by the end of this decade, in the year 2020.

Land-based glaciers that have also started to slide faster toward the sea.

Land-based glaciers that have also started to slide faster toward the sea.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/18/2015 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Larsen B ice shelf, Antarctica, ice shelf, disintegration, climate change


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Severe damage has been reported in the Antarctic Peninsula, the part of the vast frozen continent that extends northward toward South America.

The gigantic marine-based Larsen C ice shelf, approximately the size of Scotland, has several weaknesses. The shelf has a growing rift across it. This could pose an "imminent risk" to its stability, according to scientists from the British Antarctic Survey.


NASA scientists have an even worse prognosis for the remnants of the nearby Larsen B ice shelf. The body already disintegrated back in 2002, when the shelf lost a region larger than Rhode Island. Currently, there is still 618 square miles left of it.

In a new study in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, researchers with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California at Irvine say that this remnant now faces its "approaching demise."


NASA declares that the ice shelf "is likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade."

If correct, then the coming years could see major ice calving events off the Antarctic Peninsula, in particular, for Larsen B.

"What might happen is that for a few years, we will have the detachment of big icebergs from this remaining ice shelf," Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Ala Khazendar, lead author of the new study says.

"And then at one point, one very, very warm summer, when you have lots of melting of the surface, the whole thing will just give way, and will shatter into thousands of smaller icebergs."

Researchers detected the weaknesses of Larsen B using measurements from planes and satellites. The study calls its "persistent ice flow acceleration since the year 2002," as well as a major crack that is growing across the remainder of the ice shelf.

Land-based glaciers that have also started to slide faster toward the sea. Both the Leppard and Flask glaciers have increased their rates of flow and their elevation has accordingly dropped by 49 to 65 feet over the period from 2002 to 2011.

"The final phase of the demise of LBIS [Larsen B ice shelf] is most likely in progress," the researchers conclude.

"The weakening of the remnant ice shelf is manifested by its acceleration, front retreat, enhanced fracture including the rapid widening of a large rift close to the grounding line [where the ice shelf is moored on the seafloor] and possibly the detachment of the stagnant part of the ice shelf from neighboring grounded ice."

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