The A’s, B’s and now C’s of Global Melting

News broke last week of an 11-mile crack widening the ongoing detachment of the Larsen C ice shelf from the Antarctic continental ice sheet, signaling an impending break-off of the Delaware-sized chunk of ice.

Captain Carl Anton Larsen, who won the name of all three ice shelves for skiing on one during a whaling trip in the late 1890’s, would barely recognize the Antarctic today.

Larsen A disintegrated in 1995, though without the fancy technology of the last 20 years to capture it, there are no dramatic videos sequencing the collapse like are available for Larsen B and C.


Larsen B partially collapsed in 2002, losing a Rhode Island-sized piece of ice from the larger Larsen B shelf. In 2015, NASA published a study on the continued disintegration of what remains of Larsen B, warning that a total collapse of the remaining portions of Larsen B (more than half the land area of Rhode Island) is expected within the next 10 years (that was two years ago – so in less than eight years).

Larsen B has been a stable and present ice shelf for more than 10,000 years. The 2002 Larsen B collapse was the catalyst for cataclysmic climate change in a little Hollywood B-movie you might of heard of, The Day After Tomorrow (2004). The scene below from the aforementioned film seems a bit over the top when you first watch it – unfortunately with Larsen C – it’s a little too close to reality


Now, Larsen C, the largest of the Larsen ice shelves and fourth-largest off all the ice shelves in Antarctica, appears to be moving away from the ice sheet at an unexpectedly alarming rate. In land area, Larsen C is twice the size of Maryland.

The crack photographed below in November 2016 shows the split of a piece of ice equal in area to the state of Delaware.


You can watch a video of the Larsen B Ice Shelf loss below.

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