A giant iceberg, with an area equivalent to Liguria (a region in Italy), is poised to break off from the Antartica shelf.
A thread of just 20km of ice is now preventing the 5,000 sq km mass from floating away, following the sudden expansion last month of a rift that has been steadily growing for more than a decade.
The iceberg, which is positioned on the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica, known as Larsen C, is predicted to be one of the largest 10 break-offs ever recorded.
Professor Adrian Luckman, a scientist at Swansea University said in a statement: “After a few months of steady, incremental advance since the last event, the rift grew suddenly by a further 18km during the second half of December 2016. Only a final 20km of ice now connects an iceberg one quarter the size of Wales to its parvent ice shelf.”
The separation of the iceberg “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula” and could trigger a wider break-up of the Larsen C ice shelf, he added.
“If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” Luckman told.
Ice shelves are vast expanses of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the edge of glaciers.
Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves will destabilise the frozen continent’s inland glaciers. And while the splitting off of the iceberg would not contribute to rising sea levels, the loss of glacial ice would.
FRANCESCA & CAMILLA