Winter has descended on Antarctica. Even as cold and darkness blankets the bottom of the world, the region’s most watched ice shelf is continuing its epic breakdown.
A crack started spreading across the Larsen C ice shelf in 2010, reaching 100 miles in length in February. Researchers with Project MIDAS, a British group monitoring the ice shelf, have spotted the first major change to the rift since then. A roughly six mile crack branching off the main chasm recently formed, further altering the already unstable ice shelf.
The crack is expected to eventually cleave off 10 percent of Larsen C’s ice, an area roughly the size of Delaware. That loss will alter ice shelf dynamics and could speed the demise of the rest of the ice shelf, similar to what happened to neighboring Larsen A and Larsen B.
The Larsen ice shelf complex is located on the Antarctic Peninsula, a roughly 800-mile stretch of land sticking out in the Southern Ocean like a tentacle. Temperatures there rose 5°F in the latter half of the 20th century before cooling a bit since then due largely to the ozone hole recovery.