A crack in an icy world


An Antarctic ice shelf gets set to split.


Looking down at the Brunt Ice Shelf.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

This is Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf, seen from above by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on NASA’s Landsat 8 in January this year. On the right-hand side of the image a massive rift can be seen extending from the ocean, inland.

Known as the Halloween Crack, it was first seen in October, 2016, and has been growing longer ever since.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the crack will reach a natural stress point and a hunk of ice – about twice the area of New York city – will calve from the shelf and float free.

Calving is a normal part of ice shelf development, but researchers suggest the phenomenon has been happening with increasing rapidity in recent years.

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