An iceberg roughly the size of Delaware and 600 feet thick is about to break off from one of the largest floating ice shelves in Antarctica, and the prospect is precipitating fierce debate as to whether global warming is the cause.
The iceberg is part of the Larsen C ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, south of the tip of South America.
The calving has been expected; a crack in the ice shelf had grown to be over 100 miles long in recent months. According to scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, only three miles of ice still connect the iceberg to the shelf. Some scientists believe the calving could trigger the destabilization of the Larsen C ice shelf.
And so, an argument has been launched as to the reasons for the iceberg’s break:
In this corner, Helen Amana Fricker, an Antarctic scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, arguing against climate change: “We do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C. Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia — on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime.”
In this corner, Eric Rignot, a NASA and University of California, Irvine, expert on Antarctica: “Of course this is due to climate warming in the peninsula.”
Those supporting the climate change argument point to the Larsen A ice shelf, which is farther north than Larsen C, collapsing in 1995, and Larsen B doing the same thing in 2002.
Fricker noted, “Yes, I agree Larsen C is ‘next in line’ southwards after Larsen A and B. However, there is actually no research showing that Larsen C is getting thinner and flowing faster. In fact, in recent years, it is the opposite.”
Larsen C is huge but still dwarfed by the Ross Ice Shelf and Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf.
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