Monitoring the rift

Monitoring the rift

Released

12/07/2017 1:46 pm

Copyright

contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016–17), processed by Swansea University

Description

The fissure in the Larsen C ice shelf first appeared several years ago, but seemed relatively stable until January 2016, when it began to lengthen. In January 2017 alone it travelled 20 km, reaching a total length of about 175 km. After a few weeks of calm, the rift propagated a further 16 km at the end of May, and then extended further at the end of June. More importantly, as the crack grew, it branched off towards the edge of the shelf, whereas before it had been running parallel to the Weddell Sea. With just a few km between the end of the fissure and the ocean by early July, the fate of the shelf was sealed. Scientists from Project MIDAS, an Antarctic research consortium led by Swansea University in the UK, used radar images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission to keep a close eye on the rapidly changing situation. Images from 12 July showed that part of the ice shelf had finally broken away.

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