One of the world’s largest icebergs looks set to form in the coming months as it breaks off an Antarctic ice shelf, according to a British research group.
An area of just 20 kilometres remains holding the 5,000-square-kilometre ice block onto the Larsen C ice shelf, where a major rift has formed over years, the Midas Project research group, which monitors the Antarctic region, told dpa on Saturday.
“The rift is probably 160 kilometres long in total and 300 to 500 metres deep,” Martin O’Leary, a researcher with the project, said.
There was no indication that the rift, which could form one of the world’s 10 largest icebergs and would be roughly half the size of Jamaica, was as a result of climate change, the researchers said.
“If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” researcher Adrian Luckman, who leads the project at Swansea University, told British media.
The group said it had been monitoring the rift for a longer period before it suddenly grew by 18 kilometres in December.
Although the iceberg does not post any immediate risk, researchers fear the ice shelf will become increasingly unstable and continue to fall apart.
“That means the ice shelf could react more sensitively to climate change,” O’Leary said.
Ice shelves are floating masses of ice held together by glaciers or ice sheets. The Larsen ice shelf is made up of four individual parts, with Larsen C being the largest.
Larsen’s A and B shelves already began disintegrating years ago, according to Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, which also researches polar regions.