A large ice shelf, almost 6,600 sq. km. (2,548 square miles) in size, is about to break off in the Antarctica.
Satellite imagery shows that the Larsen C rift is literally hanging by a thread. There’s barely three miles of terrain between the gigantic crack that’s tearing the plateau apart and open water.
When the colossal chunk of ice eventually breaks away, about a trillion tons of ice will become adrift. To put this into perspective, the iceberg would fit in snugly into Lake Michigan. If it melted completely, the water would fill more than 463 million Olympic swimming pools.
Scientists have been monitoring Larsen C for years. The rift that’s about to reach the other end of the shelf began developing in 2010, and has grown steadily longer ever since. Smaller cracks have branched off from the main rift in recent weeks. Calving (the moment when an ice shelf breaks away from the main plateau) is now inevitable.
After calving, the iceberg will be about 625 feet thick and contain roughly 277 cubic miles of ice, enough to cover the United States coast to coast with almost 5 inches of the frozen stuff.
The Sentinel-1 satellite will pass over the area again in a few days, and scientists are expecting that the iceberg will have broken off by then.
Warming waters across Antarctica are slowly eroding the thick crust of ice that has existed for millenia.
As the ice becomes thinner and weaker, icebergs break away, threatening shipping lanes and maritime traffic.
Sea levels will also rise, potentially causing devastation worldwide.