Rift in Antarctic Ice Shelf Threatens to Dangerously Raise Sea Levels

Image: Facebook/NASA/John Sonntag
Image: Facebook/NASA/John Sonntag

A giant rift observed in the Antarctic ice sheet will soon dislodge a massive iceberg, causing sea levels to dramatically rise worldwide.

The A and B referenced portions of the Larsen ice shelf have already broken off and a third referred to as Larsen C has been thinning since its first measurement in 1998. The chasm is 300 feet in width and one-third of a mile in depth, stretching across an area that would break off an iceberg five times the size of Los Angeles.

From 1998 to 2012, the retreating section of ice shelf lost about thirteen feet, averaging less than 1ft per year. However, within the past four years alone there has been an exponentially accelerated decline and retreat of an additional fourteen feet — tripling the previous average loss per year and leaving scientists at unease.

Image: Facebook/NASA/John Sonntag
Image: Facebook/NASA/John Sonntag

Larsen C is currently responsible for keeping a multitude of glaciers in place and has been serving as a holding gate, but once released, will allow the glaciers to float freely out into the ocean. This would have a drastic effect on sea levels around the world.

The specific concern for Larsen C is a small aspect of the greater looming picture. Continuous loss of elevation in Antarctica is currently attributed with a global oceanic rise of one-tenth of an inch per year due to the addition of more than 100 billion tons of water.

A collapse of the entire ice sheet would cause a 10ft rise in sea levels and permanently devastate countries around the world. The time frame associated with this event has been roughly limited to a century, leaving scientists scrambling for solutions to the omnipresent climate change. 

Watch below to learn how Operation IceBridge measures these Antarctic ice sheets.

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