A 10,000 year old ice shelf is melting in the Antarctic at a rapid rate.
The Larsen B Ice Shelf which partially collapsed in 2002, is receding and breaking up. According to a new study, the remaining 618-square mile section could disappear into the ocean by 2020. According to scientists the rate of sea level rises worldwide would increase, as the Antarctic’s ice shelf is the primary factor in keeping other ice from entering the ocean. Scientific observations point to a significant increase in the rate of flow of melting glaciers, the recession of the ice shelf and increased fracture and weakening over the last decade or two.
“These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating,” said Ala Khazendar, a researcher at the NASA-affiliated Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet.
Researchers evaluated the rate at which the glaciers Leppard and Flask, the two primary glaciers that comprise the ice shelf, have been disintegrating in recent decades to estimate how much time the shelf has left. The rate at which they have flowed into the water has increased by more than 50% since 1997. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and the NASA-affiliated Jet Propulsion Laboratory, found that the glaciers have thinned by 65-72 feet since 2002.
The loss of this ice shelf will likely speed up the rate of sea level growth around the world. Ice shelves slow the rate that other ice enters the ocean and keeps sea levels from growing too quickly.
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