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Massive Antarctic Larsen C crack extends by almost 10km

A massive chunk of ice in Antarctica is on the brink of breaking off and is now hanging on to the parent ice shelf by a thin thread just 20 kilometres long, say scientists who found a rift that has grown by another 10 kilometres since the year began.

The vast rift has grown more than 6 miles longer since January 1, leaving an area reportedly the size of DE connected to the main shelf by a mere 10 percent of the total length, the British MIDAS project announced Thursday.

It is still not known when the iceberg will break off.

A widening rift running the length of the finger-shaped, 350 metre-thick ice block grew 10 km longer some time during the last three weeks, satellite images revealed.

Scientists are anxious that the calving event - which refers to the breaking off of the iceberg from the ice shelf - could speed up the disintegration of the broader shelf and land-based ice that lies behind it.

"When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded", Adrian Luckman, the lead researcher behind the MIDAS Project, said in a post.

A tabular iceberg one-quarter the size of Wales may soon break off the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica as a crack in it continues to lengthen, climate scientists have warned.

According to Luckman, the area that will break off will be about 5,000 square kilometres, a size he said that would put the iceberg among the top ten biggest ever recorded. It is the effect of ice sheet disintegration that most worries scientists.

Just 20km of ice remains connecting the shelf together.

Luckman previously told the BBC he'd be "amazed" if the ice shelf didn't break away in the next few months, saying: "It's so close to calving that I think it's inevitable". They can destabilize larger parts of ice shelves and land-based ice sheets by exposing more ice to mild ocean waters and air temperatures.

This distinction differentiates it from its two companions, Larsen A and B, whose respective breakups in 1995 and 2002 appear to have been hastened by a series of warm summers. It can't affect water levels any more than a melting ice cube can cause a glass to overflow.

However, because they act like doorstops to the land-based ice behind them, when the shelves give way, the land-based glaciers can start sliding into the sea in a process that's hard (if not impossible) to stop, long-term.


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