Trillion ton iceberg drifts off the Larsen C ice shelf

Cracks are spreading where an iceberg the size of Delaware that broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf last month. 

Scientists have released satellite footage of the moment the Antarctic Peninsula lost 10 per cent of its area earlier this month.

Since that time, experts have been following the fate of the huge iceberg as a rift has grown between the mainland and the mass of frozen water.

They have found that cracks are still growing on the ice shelf, and if they continue to grow, it’s possible that the ice shelf could collapse.

If all of Larsen C collapses, the ice it holds back might add another 4 inches (10 cm) to sea levels over the years.

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An iceberg four times the size of London that broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf has been captured in unprecedented detail. This image shows the view of the A68 iceberg from a European Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite image acquired on July 30

An iceberg four times the size of London that broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf has been captured in unprecedented detail. This image shows the view of the A68 iceberg from a European Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite image acquired on July 30

WAS CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSIBLE FOR A68

Reporting this week in the Nature journal Climate Change, Dr Anna Hogg and Dr Hilmar Gudmundsson examine the events leading up to this dramatic natural phenomenon.

They also discuss how calving of huge icebergs affects the stability of Antarctic ice shelves.

Their article argues that a calving event is not necessarily due to changes in environmental conditions.

Instead, it may simply reflect the natural growth and decay cycle of an ice shelf.

Dr Anna Hogg, from the University of Leeds and Dr Hilmar Gudmundsson, from the British Antarctic Survey, have continued to track the iceberg, known as A68, since the July 12 breakaway.

Using the European Space Agency's (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite, they have found that, since the calving event, the berg has started to drift away from the Larsen-C.

Open ocean is now clearly visible in the approximately five kilometre gap between the berg and the ice-shelf.

A cluster of over 11 'smaller' icebergs have also now formed, the largest of which is over eight miles (13km) long. 

These 'bergy bits', as the experts are describing them, have broken off both the giant iceberg and the remaining ice-shelf.

Dr Hogg, an ESA research fellow in the centre for polar observation and modelling at Leeds, said: 'The satellite images reveal a lot of continuing action on Larsen-C Ice Shelf.

'We can see that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides important structural support for the remaining ice shelf.

'If an ice shelf loses contact with the ice rise, either through sustained thinning or a large iceberg calving event, it can prompt a significant acceleration in ice speed, and possibly further destabilisation. 

'It looks like the Larsen-C story might not be over yet.' 

Scientists have released satellite footage of aftermath of the Antarctic Peninsula losing 10 per cent of its area earlier this month. This Sentinel-1 image shows the colossal iceberg (shown in blue) after it had broken free and the 'bergy bits' described by the experts began to break off

Scientists have released satellite footage of aftermath of the Antarctic Peninsula losing 10 per cent of its area earlier this month. This Sentinel-1 image shows the colossal iceberg (shown in blue) after it had broken free and the 'bergy bits' described by the experts began to break off

The iceberg, dubbed 'A68', is  one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded. A graphic shows how the iceberg compares in size

The iceberg, dubbed 'A68', is  one of the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded. A graphic shows how the iceberg compares in size

Reporting this week in the Nature journal Climate Change, Dr Hogg and Dr Gudmundsson examine the events leading up to this dramatic natural phenomenon.

They also discuss how calving of huge icebergs affects the stability of Antarctic ice shelves.

Their article argues that a calving event is not necessarily due to changes in environmental conditions.

Instead, it may simply reflect the natural growth and decay cycle of an ice shelf.

Dr Gudmundsson added: 'Although floating ice shelves have only a modest impact on of sea-level rise, ice from Antarctica's interior can discharge into the ocean when they collapse. 

'Consequently we will see increase in the ice-sheet contribution to global sea-level rise.

'With this large calving event, and the availability of satellite technology, we have a fantastic opportunity to watch this natural experiment unfolding before our eyes. We can expect to learn a lot about how ice shelves break up and how the loss of a section of an ice shelf affects the flow of the remaining parts.' 

Ice-shelf retreat on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been observed throughout the satellite era, around 50 years. 

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Dr Anna Hogg, from the University of Leeds and Dr Hilmar Gudmundsson, from the British Antarctic Survey, have continued to track the iceberg, known as A68, since the July 12 breakaway. This Sentinel-1 data shows network of cracks grow on the Larsen-C Ice-Shelf, before and after the colossal iceberg broke free

Ice-shelf retreat on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been observed throughout the satellite era, around 50 years. This image, taken from a video created by the researchers, shows the ice front as it appeared when the crack (bottom right) began to appear in 2014

Using the European Space Agency's (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite, they have found that, since the calving event, the berg has started to drift away from the Larsen-C. This image, taken from a video created by the researchers, shows the ice front as it appeared when the crack (bottom right) began to appear in 2014

Ice-shelf retreat on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been observed throughout the satellite era, around 50 years. Satellite data was used in this image to track the spread of smaller cracks (green and red) that appeared before the main calving event

Ice-shelf retreat on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been observed throughout the satellite era, around 50 years. Satellite data was used in this image to track the spread of smaller cracks (green and red) that appeared before the main calving event

Large sections of the Larsen Ice Shelf A and B, and the Wilkins1 ice-shelf collapsed in a matter of days in 1995, 2002, and 2008, respectively.

Geological evidence suggests that ice-shelf decay of this magnitude is not unprecedented, however, prior to 2002 the Larsen-B ice shelf remained intact for the last 11,000 years. 

While Antarctic ice shelves are in direct contact with both the atmosphere

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