A large chunk of ice in the Larsen C ice shelf is joined with a small sliver of ice some 12 miles long with the rest of the continent. The crack between the large chunk of ice and the rest of the continent is being studied by British scientists who are continuously monitoring the crack. The rift was widening, but in the second half of December 2016, it suddenly expanded by more than 18 kilometers.
According to Adrian Luckman, who is attached to the MIDAS Project, said that the crack has been steadily growing and now it is almost 70 miles wide. If the crack widens further and reaches the other side of the shelf, a gigantic piece of ice the size of Texas will break off and the Larsen C will be 10% smaller. The landscape of the icy continent will be changed permanently.
The presence of Icy shelf is important because they act as a buffer between the ocean waters and the land. The absence of ice shelf will lead to a situation where the water from the melting glaciers will flow directly into the ocean and raise the sea level.
The process of breaking of the ice shelf is a process known as calving and is not an unusual event. What is surprising is the process of calving is happening at a faster rate than the refreezing process. The breaking of the huge ice block will destabilize the whole ice shelf. In 2002, a smaller ice shelf, the Larsen B disintegrated and disappeared in less than a month. A few years back another ice shelf, Larsen A had disintegrated completely.
A similar process is also happening in Greenland where huge chunks of ice some as big as four times the size of Manhattan have crumbled and disappeared. Scientists are worried that a similar fate also awaits Larsen C.