Larsen C ice shelf break in Antarctica not an indicator of climate change

Larsen C ice shelf break in Antarctica not an indicator of climate change
Breaking ice in Antarctica. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The massive iceberg that broke off of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, sounds alarming, but it doesn’t mean Antarctica is falling apart. The iceberg is comparatively small; its detachment won’t have any catastrophic consequence; and is not connected to climate change. It is a natural process of ice that builds up on the ice shelf through snowfall, and then eventually goes back into the sea at some point.

But do to the huge portion that broke off, it does change the nature of the ice shelf. Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist in Wales and member of a U.K.-based project observing Larsen C, spoke about the break on the project’s website.

“Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position. This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history. We’re going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

The iceberg weighs over 1 trillion tons. It reduces the area of the ice shelf by more than 12 percent. Although it does present an unknown for scientists, it has not created an emergency.

The biggest tragedy this could lead to is a collapse of the ice shelf, as happened with its neighbor, Larsen B in 2002. Larsen B Ice Shelf finally disintegrated seven years after a detachment event like the one we’re seeing now.

Yet even if this becomes the fate of Larsen C, sea levels would only be modestly impacted.

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