“We’re not even sure how it’s hanging on there,” he said.
June 9, 2017 7:49 PM   Subscribe

"British Antarctic Survey (BAS) recently captured this video footage of a huge crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf, on the Antarctic Peninsula."

NYT Shelf Is 8 Miles From Creating an Iceberg the Size of Delaware
"A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf is getting close to a full break, according to scientists. It has accelerated this year in an area already threatened by warming temperatures, and is now only about eight miles from the edge of the ice shelf. The crack in Larsen C is more than 120 miles long, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, it will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded"

Via Project MIDAS, "a UK-based Antarctic research project, investigating the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf in West Antarctica. Recent warming has caused large melt ponds to form on Larsen C during summer, which are changing the structure of the ice. The effects of this on the future of the ice shelf are still unknown."

Larsen A: SCIAM
"Then one day, while the crew ate lunch inside one of the huts, they were blasted by a boom—“calamitously loud, like a volcano blowing up,” Brückner recalls. They ran outside. The ice shelf bordering their little island was breaking apart. The upheaval was so violent they feared the fracturing ice would tear the island from its foundation and roll it like a log into the ocean. They placed instruments by their feet to warn them if the ground started to tip. After a few tense days the men were evacuated by helicopter to another station 200 kilometers north. The island held, but the map had changed for good.
Brückner and his colleagues had witnessed the collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf, a signature event."


Collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf: NASA
Slideshow: "In the Southern Hemisphere summer of 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area—3,250 square kilometers, or 1,250 square miles—disintegrate so rapidly."

Sadly, not one of the Antarctic Fairy Tales from The Whelk.
posted by Gotanda (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Killer closing comment. Took me a minute to grasp. Thanks.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:07 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Polar ice melt acceleration is one of those fears of mine that hits me right in the frontal cortex. Most of my other fears are a lot further back in the limbic system and whatnot. Burns my fuckin' head.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


yaaaay the world is dying and we're speeding towards an apocalyptic nightmare yaaaaaaay
posted by schroedinger at 11:42 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


yaaaay the world is dying and we're speeding towards an apocalyptic nightmare yaaaaaaay

Yup, this really is an amazing time to be alive. I mean just think about how many thousands of years people have been worried about the end of times, and we're the ones who might be lucky enough to actually experience it! It really is a remarkable privilege to be part of the generations faced with such a moment.

Being present for the apocalypse is such a special privilege in fact that one might almost think there was a link between the two ideas. But I'd better not to get too self satisfied over our place in history before the end arrives since I'd hate to find I'm a little too old and might have to leave just before the big finale. Those damn millennials shouldn't get to have all the excitement.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:29 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Here's an appropriate song for the occasion.
posted by Slinga at 4:56 AM on June 10


I mean just think about how many thousands of years people have been worried about the end of times, and we're the ones who might be lucky enough to actually experience it!

Actually, thanks to the miracle of exponential growth, your chances of being alive during the end times are surprisingly good. According to a number of different estimates -- Here's Nate Silver -- about 100 billion humans have been born in the last 50,000 years. So today's living population is about 10 percent of all the humans who have ever lived. (Quibbling about the starting point is one of the error flags in that calculation, but stretching it back further, say to mitochondrial Eve, doesn't add much to the total and it becomes much more questionable whether those ancestors of ours were "human" yet.)

So assuming we are about to give ourselves a species-level Darwin Award, about 10 percent of the humans who have ever lived will be around to collect it, and that figure actually keeps increasing the longer we put it off and the more our living population grows. But a human lifespan is only about one percent of the time humans have been around, so 10 percent is really a very high percentage given the aeons we've been waiting.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:20 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


.
posted by spitbull at 5:57 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


But a human lifespan is only about one percent of the time humans have been around

Redo the math. If by humans you mean language-using, culture-having Homo sapiens, or so-called behavioral modernity (50-100Kya), and generously grant a 75 year modern lifespan to the entire run of the show, it's still a good deal less than 1/1000th. If you mean the total evolutionary history of genus Homo, it's a vanishingly small percentage.

A good run. Looks like it's about to end.
posted by spitbull at 6:05 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


So what happens after Larsen C breaks off, is it a retaining wall for more ice that will slide off afterwards? A protective wall that allows ice to melt up the adjacent sheet? Nothing?
posted by Slackermagee at 7:18 AM on June 10


Redo the math.

Yep, I slipped a zero there. Just makes it all the more amazing that about ten percent of us are alive right now.
posted by Bringer Tom at 8:11 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


When I was a pre-literate sprog my parents took me to see the 1978 Richard Donner "Superman" movie, a movie about a guy with super-powers, as was the style at the time.

Of all the amazing things I saw non-digitally projected on the screen that day, the most confounding to my semi-developed brain was the Kryptonians failing to heed Joe-El's warnings about the global crisis at hand. His argument, if I recall, was a long the lines of, "First of all given our highly advanced super-understanding of science, the planet is about to kerplode; and second of all, look! The planet is kerploding!"

As a dopey little kid I simply lacked the capacity to grok how it was a credible story beat to have the elders of the super-world be too dim-witted to take Jor-El seriously. I mean, couldn't they see all those tiny models of giant crystals cracking apart in underclocked cutaways?

It was infuriating to me. I was willing to accept the flying man who always told the truth, but imagining that the custodians of a super race were dolts was a bridge too far.

People would never be so dumb to ignore the sky falling, I tried to argue. My dad said, "It's called 'suspension of disbelief.'"

Now, as a grown up, I can appreciate that suspension of disbelief can be deployed in settings outside of storytelling. In fact, as a device, it's having a bit of a hey dey.

And after all these years I've finally stopped being troubled by that scene in "Superman" when they choose to ignore Jor-El! I thought it was a screenwriting mistake, but it turned out be a precognitive documentary. That's just what people do when global climates are disrupted -- they stick their fingers in their ears.

Richard Donner has been vindicated by Larsen C.
posted by Construction Concern at 11:55 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


So what happens after Larsen C breaks off, is it a retaining wall for more ice that will slide off afterwards?

The Larsen Ice Shelf wikipedia page is decent, it mentions that the speed of the glacier that flows into the Larsen B ice shelf increased threefold after its collapse. So it's assumed that the bulk of the ice shelf acts as a buttress to slow the downhill glacier movement. More land-based ice falling into the ocean will lead to seal-level rise.
posted by peeedro at 12:10 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]




seal-level rise

Oddly apropos typo...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:06 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


We're escalating up the state list from Rhode Island to Delaware. The RI berg made it as far as Drake's Passage off Argentina. I wonder how far the DE berg will make it. And, if we start getting into Luxembourg or Connecticut-sized bergs, how far could they travel? Apparently NASA tracks these but I'm having a hard time finding live information. International Ice Patrol (IIP) Iceberg Sightings Database covers the North Atlantic. Found a link to a dataset at BYU, but I can't get t to load. However, I did learn a new word for this area of study: cryosphere.
posted by Gotanda at 6:17 PM on June 10




A watched shelf never cracks.
posted by fairmettle at 1:38 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


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