With President Donald Trump announcing that the United States won’t be joining a huge number of its allies in supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change rules just a day ago, an extremely troubling development in Antarctica is helping to underscore just how bad of a decision that really was. A crack in the Larsen C ice shelf on the frigid continent has grown rapidly in the past week, and a complete break is expected imminently. When that happens, a chunk of ice as large as the state of Delaware will be released into the ocean, creating one of the world’s largest icebergs ever.
The crack, which is currently roughly 120 miles long, has grown by several miles in just the past week, and is now just eight miles from being complete. Researchers are pointing to the accelerated break — called “calving” — as a further sign that human-caused climate change is currently at a tipping point from which we may not be able to recover.
The shelf’s calving, as troubling as it is on its own, is (unfortunately) just part of a bigger picture. Scientists believe that, once the shelf does make its way freely into the ocean, the event could further destabilize the rest of the glacier, leading to increased break-ups in the immediate future.
“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University College of Science said of the calving. “This event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.”