Antarctic ice crack takes major turn

Jonathan Amos | BBC News | May 31, 2017

There has been an important development in the big crack cutting across the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

The fissure, which threatens to spawn one of the biggest bergs ever seen, has dramatically changed direction.

"The rift has propagated a further 16km, with a significant apparent right turn towards the end, moving the tip 13km from the ice edge," said Swansea University's Prof Adrian Luckman.

The calving of the berg could now be very close, he told BBC News.

Although he also quickly added that nothing was certain.

The fissure currently extends for about 200km in length, tracing the outline of a putative berg that covers some 5,000 sq km - an area about a quarter of the size of Wales.

The crack put on its latest spurt between 25 May and 31 May. These dates were the two most recent passes of the European Union's Sentinel-1 satellites. Their radar vision is keeping up a constant watch as the White Continent moves into the darkness of deep winter.

After some initial activity at the beginning of the year, the Larsen crack became stationary as it entered what is termed a "suture" zone - a region of soft, flexible ice. But this situation held only until the beginning of May, when the rift tip then suddenly forked. And it is the new branch that has now extended and turned towards the ocean.

...more...

Category: