Satellite images have been tracking a 70-mile-long, 300 foot-wide crack in an Antarctic glacier that’s growing by the day, Business Insider reported Sunday.
According to the outlet, the 2,300-square-mile ice block is part of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, which is the leading edge of one of the world’s largest glacier systems – and is called an ice shelf because it’s floating on the ocean, the outlet reported
The crack began opening up around 2011, and a team of scientists that flew over the region last month report it’s now at least 70 miles long, 300 feet wide, and one-third of a mile deep, Business Insider reported.
“[R]ifting of this magnitude doesn’t happen so often, [so] we don’t often get a chance to study it up close,” NASA glaciologist and geophysicist Joe MacGregor at Goddard Space Flight Center told the outlet.
He said it may be “a month, maybe a year” before the ice block chips off.
“The more we study these rifts, the better we’ll be able to predict their evolution and influence upon the ice sheets and oceans at large,” he told the outlet.
But when it does break off, he said, it’ll be the third-largest in recorded history, and will “drift out into the Weddell Sea and then the Southern Ocean and be caught up in the broader clockwise […] ocean circulation and then melt, which will take at least several months, given its size.”
Business Insider reported the quickly fracturing off of Antarctica’s prominent peninsula is likely due to rapid human-caused global warming.
The Larsen C ice shelf “is already floating in the ocean, so it has already displaced an equivalent water mass and minutely raised sea level as a result,” MacGregor told the outlet.
“Melting of the resulting iceberg won’t change that contribution.”
But if Larsen C collapses, it might add another 4 inches to sea levels, the outlet reported.