The Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth-largest in Antarctica, has attracted (http://www.
But there is valid concern among scientists that the entire Larsen C ice shelf could become unstable, and eventually break up entirely, with knock-on effects that could take decades to play out.
While the prediction that Larsen C could become unstable is based partly on physics, it is also based on observations.
We can't yet predict the full consequences of the new iceberg calving from Larsen C.
Satellite images reveal that a crack in Larsen C rapidly extended tens of kilometers across the ice shelf in 2014.
Lead author Daniela Jansen, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, expects that the crack will chip apart Larsen C within five years.
Since Larsen C already floats in the ocean, the break-off won't immediately raise global sea levels.
Larsen C, covering about 55,000 square kilometers, is the largest ice shelf along the Antarctic Peninsula.
In November 2014, Jansen assembled satellite images of Larsen C and noticed something unusual: A crack had spread past the suture zone and was more than halfway toward breaking off a large section of the ice shelf.
In one scenario, the crack cuts off 6,400 square kilometers of ice and shrinks Larsen C by 12 percent.