Scientists warn that the global warming may cause the detachment of the largest ice shelf in Antarctica, which would bring catastrophic consequences. The loss of the Larsen C Ice Shelf could happen within a century, but experts do not exclude that it will happen earlier, with serious consequences for the global sea level.
"We know that two different processes affect Larsen C, thus it becomes thinner and more stable," said the lead researcher Paul Holland of British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
"If this huge portion of ice collapses, the glaciers, flowing behind it, will end more quickly to the sea and it will contribute greatly to the increase of sea levels."
The melting of glaciers could raise the average global sea level between 40 and 63 centimeters by 2100, but it is believed that the increase could even reach 82 centimeters due to the effects of the greenhouse gas emissions.
The Larsen C Ice Shelf is the fourth largest in the world, covering an area of about 55,000 square kilometers.
Firstly, Larsen A Ice Shelf was lost in 1995. In 2002 followed Larsen B Ice Shelf, which had the size of Rhode Island in the US. According to glacier researchers, this had happened approximately 12,000 years ago. Temperatures in the region have increased by about 2.5 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years.
Larsen C Ice Shelf has lost an average of 4 meters of ice during that period and the ice from its surface has been reduced by almost a meter. The warmer seas destroy the glacier internally, while the warmer temperature, as the researchers believe, causes the removal of snow from the soft surface. This leads to the ice on the surface to be more compact and dense, which weakens its internal structure.