A long-running rift in the Larsen C ice shelf grew suddenly in December and now just 20km of ice is keeping the 5,000 sq km piece from floating away.Says researcher Prof Adrian Luckman, from Swansea University,
Larsen C is the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica.
"We would expect in the ensuing months to years further calving events, and maybe an eventual collapse - but it's a very hard thing to predict, and our models say it will be less stable; not that it will immediately collapse or anything like that."
As it floats on the sea, the resulting iceberg from the shelf will not raise sea levels. But if the shelf breaks up even more, it could result in glaciers that flow off the land behind it to speed up their passage towards the ocean. This non-floating ice would have an impact on sea levels.
According to estimates, if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf currently holds back entered the sea, global waters would rise by 10cm[emphasis added].