One CNN on May 18, 2015, reported on one of the last remaining sections of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf dramatically weakening, according to a new NASA study. Excerpts below:
The study predicts that what remains of the once-prominent ice shelf, a thick floating platform of ice, most likely will “disintegrate completely” before the end of this decade.
Ice shelves are extensions of glaciers and function as barriers. Their disappearance means glaciers potentially will diminish more quickly, as well, increasing the pace at which global sea levels rise.
A team led by Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, found evidence of the ice shelf flowing faster and becoming more fragmented. The flow is creating large cracks in the ice shelf.
The Larsen B Ice Shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years.
The ice shelf’s disintegrating state came into light after it partially collapsed in 2002. Scientists watched in amazement as the ice shelf splintered and vanished rapidly in six weeks. No one had ever witnessed a large ice mass disappear so quickly, according to Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist at Slate.
The collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf seems to have been caused by a series of warm summers on the Antarctic Peninsula…
Larsen B measured 4,445 square miles in January 1995. It went down to 2,573 square miles in February 2002 after the major disintegration, and a month later Larsen B was down to 1,337 square miles.
At present the Larsen B remnant is about 618 square miles. That’s less than half the size of Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory glaciologist Eric Rignot, who co-authored the paper, said the research gives insight into how ice shelves closer to the South Pole will react with the warming climate.
Other prominent ice shelves in the region also have been affected over the years.
Larsen A disintegrated in January 1995. Larsen C has been somewhat stable with some evidence of thinning and melting, the space agency said after observing satellite imagery in 2012.
Comment: The good news is that the melting of the Larsen ice-shelf opens up for the possibility of underwater mineral mining.