Study: Larsen B Ice Shelf will be gone by 2020

Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf is expected to completely disintegrate by 2020, according to a new NASA study. (Photo: NSIDC/Ted Scambos)

(MEDIA GENERAL) – A new NASA study predicts Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely by 2020.

The new research project, headlined by Ala Khazendar, found the remnant of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is “flowing faster, becoming increasingly fragmented and developing large cracks,” according to a NASA press release.

“These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating,” Khazendar said in a press release. “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. This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone.”

As Antarctic ice shelves continue to deteriorate at a rapid rate, glacial ice enters the oceans and accelerates the pace of global sea rise.

Khazendar’s team’s study, published online in the journal “Earth and Planetary Science Letters,” reportedly used data on ice surface elevations and bedrock depths as well as flow speeds to measure deterioration rates from the Ice Shelf. Khazendar noted the estimate of the Larsen B Ice Shelf’s remaining life span was based on the likely scenario that a wide rift that has formed near the ice shelf’s grounding line eventually will crack all the way across. The rift is expected to cause another major collapse.

NASA measurements indicate the Larsen B remnant is approximately 625 square miles in area – roughly the size of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan combined – and 1,640 feet thick at its thickest point.

These four photos show a timeline of the 2002 Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse. (Photos: NSIDC/NASA)
These four photos show a timeline of the 2002 Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse. (Photos: NSIDC/NASA)

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