New satellite images have captured footage of a spooky Halloween crack in the Brunt Shelf in Antarctica. This is the same Brunt Shelf that’s hanging on for dear life, so a crack, however on brand for the holiday, is not really something we need.
But, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), the crevice of the crack itself is stable. The tip of the Brunt Shelf is what’s causing scientists concern as southern Antarctica continues to warm. New images show that there’s only a slender sliver of ice about one-third of a mile (600 meters) long holding the tip of the Brunt Shelf to the rest of the iceberg. See the image from Space.com, where the crack is highlighted in red.
“If and when this potential rupture point finally gives way, it is expected to spawn a huge iceberg about 1750 square kilometers [675 square miles],” the ESA wrote on Oct. 31, “which is over five times bigger than the size of Malta.” For context, Malta is one-tenth the size of Rhode Island.
Satellite Images Show ‘Halloween Crack’ in Brunt Shelf in Antarctica
The Halloween crack itself is still pretty cool. It’s a long line in the ice, first discovered in October 2016. That’s why it’s called the Halloween crack, because it was discovered on Oct. 31. It’s located in an area called the McDonald Ice Rumples. The Rumples is grounded, which means it’s connected to the seabed. This actually slows down ice loss.
As for the weakening iceberg, new satellite images may help determine the rise in sea level if the Brunt Shelf tip does break off. “Owing to climate change,” ESA officials wrote, “Antarctica’s ice shelves are weakening, leading to greater risks of more land ice ending up in the oceans and thereby adding to sea-level rise, something arguably more frightening than Halloween.”
Doomsday Glacier Holding on ‘By Its Fingernails’ is Roughly the Size of Florida
The Thwaites Glacier is still holding on by its fingernails in Antarctica. It’s roughly the size of Florida, and could raise sea levels by several feet. It’s disintegrating faster than previously thought, per a report from Sept. 8. According to a study in Natural Geoscience, the glacier is moving at “exceptionally fast rates of past retreat.” The study also found that it actually fell back by 1.3 miles per year in the past 200 years.
“Thwaites is really holding on today by its fingernails, and we should expect to see big changes over small time scales in the future — even from one year to the next — once the glacier retreats beyond a shallow ridge in its bed,” said British Antarctic Survey’s Robert Larter, who co-authored the study.
This is serious stuff for anyone who cares about climate change. It’s not some far-off future problem, it’s right here and now. The Thwaites Glacier and the Brunt Shelf Halloween crack are proof of that.