The shelf partially collapsed in 2002 and is quickly weakening.
Two of its tributary glaciers are flowing faster and thinning rapidly, while the shelf itself is becoming increasingly fragmented and developing large cracks.
“Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet,” said Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who led the study.
“This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone.”
Without ice shelves, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.