A colossal mass of ice the size of the city of Philadelphia broke off the Antarctic Peninsula in early 2022, after which it floated away. The rupture of the platform, whose surface was calculated at 325 square kilometers, was captured in Larsen-B Bay by NASA satellites between January 19 and 21.
With the phenomenon, a series of iceberg calvings took place on the Crane Glacier and several of its neighbors, as the sea ice stopped propping up their fronts. According to the report of the Columbia Climate Schoolthe situation could increase the sea level, since the glaciers today are “more vulnerable to melting and acceleration towards the ocean.”
The Larsen ice shelf is located in the Weddell Sea, along the northeast part of the Antarctic Peninsula, for which Argentina, Chile and the United Kingdom claim sovereignty. As detailed by the institution, it is divided into four regions that occupy different bays along the coast, called Larsen A, B, C and D.
The detachment was attributed by the Columbia Climate School to the presence of “warmer ocean waters melting it from below”, in addition to meltwater on its surface, which also accelerated ice loss.
“With only a portion remaining after the collapse, this section was much less stable and vulnerable to further disintegration. It got thinner, which allowed the landside glaciers to flow faster,” the publication stated.
However, for Professor Stef Lhermitte, from the Technical University of Delft, “it is difficult to know what really caused the disintegration, since the sea ice already showed cracks before the rupture”. Other experts argued that warmer summer temperatures and foehn winds brought warm, moist air to the region.
For the geoscience and remote sensing expert, the mass could be a frozen set of loose sea ice segments. For this reason, he argued, it is very likely that it disintegrated quickly as soon as it separated.