An Ice Shelf Is Cracking In Antarctica, But Not For The Reason You Think – RAE ELLEN BICHELL January 16, 20174:41 AM ET


A NASA scientist with project IceBridge took this photo of the crack in November. John Sonntag/NASA

A NASA scientist with project IceBridge took this photo of the crack in November.
John Sonntag/NASA

A NASA scientist with project IceBridge took this photo of the crack in November.

John Sonntag/NASA

A group of scientists is gathering today in the U.K. to discuss a slab of ice that’s cracking in Antarctica. The crack could soon split off a frozen chunk the size of Delaware.

On glacier scientist, Heidi Sevestre, spent six weeks last year living on that giant slab of ice off the Antarctic Peninsula.

“It’s like being on a different planet,” says Sevestre, a glaciologist with the University of St Andrews in Scotland. She and her colleagues would get really excited whenever they saw a bird pass overhead because it was the only other sign of life around.

“Everything is gigantic, everything is white,” she says. And everything seemed so frozen and still. But it wasn’t.

“When you’re camping on the ice shelf, you have no idea that you’re on something that is floating and moving,” she says.

The ice shelf is in constant motion: rising with the tides, splitting off icebergs at its edges, and growing again as inland glaciers feed it.

The ice shelf Sevestre was studying is called Larsen C, and it now has a massive 90-mile crack running through it.

“The big rift is slicing the ice shelf from top to bottom,” Sevestre says. It’s now a third of a mile deep, and as wide across as 25 highway lanes.

But this is not just another sad climate change story. It’s more complicated.

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