A partition of ice was confirmed to have broken off of the floating Larsen C ice shelf today by Project MIDAS, a UK-based research group that had been monitoring the region.
The Larsen Shelf is a massive ice mass in the Antarctic Peninsula that climate scientists are tracking because of its potential effect on sea level rise.
The iceberg that calved off is one of the biggest ever recorded, weighing more than a trillion metric tons. While the disintegration of previous breaks are “widely accepted” to be “climate-warming results” according to Adrian Luckman, lead researcher of Project MIDAS, there is no scientific consensus on whether or not human-caused climate change contributed to the most recent collapse.
If any of my glaciological colleagues need help talking about iceberg sizes, I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet pic.twitter.com/GY91uMEnht— Martin O'Leary (@mewo2) January 10, 2017
Ice shelves float on the sea, and act as corks to stop the slow-flowing glaciers on land behind them from flowing into the sea. Since Larsen C was already floating in the ocean, the breakage has no immediate impact on sea level, but it leaves the remaining part of the shelf more vulnerable to collapse, a circumstance which would severely threaten current sea levels.
According to Luckman, “This is a big change. Maps will need to be redrawn.”