Background on the Larsen C Ice Shelf

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Over the past few years I’ve led a team that has been studying this ice shelf and monitoring change. We spent many weeks camped on the ice investigating melt ponds and their impact – and struggling to avoid sunburn thanks to the thin ozone layer. Our main approach, however, is to use satellites to keep an eye on things.

This event has also been widely but over-simplistically linked to climate change. This is not surprising because notable changes in the earth’s glaciers and ice sheets are normally associated with rising environmental temperatures. The collapses of Larsen A and B have previously been linked to regional warming, and the iceberg calving will leave Larsen C at its most retreated position in records going back over a hundred years.

However, in satellite images from the 1980s, the rift was already clearly a long-established feature, and there is no direct evidence to link its recent growth to either atmospheric warming, which is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf, or ocean warming, which is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening. It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.

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28 Responses to Background on the Larsen C Ice Shelf

  1. But that won’t stop then fear mongers. Shut down coal, gas and hope immediately. BTW, is this another tipping point?

  2. Zyconoclast

    All that ice.
    We just need a brandy ballon and a bottle of Grand Marnier

  3. Zyconoclast

    All that ice.
    All we need is a glass and a bottle of Grand Marnier

  4. Exit Stage Right

    Despite what the article says about the non link to Gerbal Wormening, this is manna from heaven for the AGW zealots who will jump on this as a sure sign that their predictions are coming true. No doubt it will be mentioned in every future doco or article as proof that we are all doomed. Al Gore has probably despatched his film crew to Antarctica as I type.

  5. notaluvvie

    It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.

    Just give them a few days to whip themselves into a frenzy.

  6. A Lurker

    However, in satellite images from the 1980s, the rift was already clearly a long-established feature, and there is no direct evidence to link its recent growth to either atmospheric warming, which is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf, or ocean warming, which is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening. It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.

    Perhaps undersea volcanoes are the culprit?

  7. jjf

    The agenda for next weeks Q&A is now set!

  8. manalive

    Firstly “Since the ice shelf is already floating, its departure from Antarctica may [will] not affect global sea levels …”(Wiki).
    Secondly there has been no overall net warming on the Antarctic Continent since observations began in the International Geophysical Year 1957.
    Thirdly the Antarctic Peninsula is at the boundary of the Antarctic and American plates and is therefore tectonically active which would probably contribute to any local ocean and crust warming.

  9. J.H.

    Ice shelves always eventually break off under the load of their own continually growing mass.

    Government funding of “Science” has to stop, because the taxpayer is not purchasing “Science” they are getting fed bullsh*t for their hard earned money, while a political class expand government beyond what is healthy or safe.

  10. Mother Lode

    However, in satellite images from the 1980s, the rift was already clearly a long-established feature, and there is no direct evidence to link its recent growth to either atmospheric warming, which is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf, or ocean warming, which is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening. It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.

    Kill the blasphemer!

    Burn the heretic!

  11. Mother Lode

    Is there anything Da Wussians can’t do?

  12. Roger

    Government funding of “Science” has to stop, because the taxpayer is not purchasing “Science” they are getting fed bullsh*t for their hard earned money, while a political class expand government beyond what is healthy or safe.

    No-one in Canberra, bar the cross benchers, is concerned about spending on “science” or the size of government.

    Look like we’re going to get a government sponsored space agency soon.

    Because every other country in the OECD, bar one, has one, apparently.

    Keeping up with the Joneses; put it on the national credit card.

  13. Leo G

    This event has also been widely but over-simplistically linked to climate change.

    Yes, I’ve seen the over-simplistic link reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and on the ABC News webpage. Clearly a flipping point for alarmists.

  14. Rohan

    bemused
    #2439534, posted on July 13, 2017 at 10:47 am
    But that won’t stop then fear mongers. Shut down coal, gas and hope immediately. BTW, is this another tipping point?

    Yep, a lot of penguins are going to get stranded.

  15. Louis

    If you could buy shares in Al Gore fear mongering they would have just tripled in value. I wonder if he’ll use this (in addition to making an additional fortune) to have a another run at politics?

  16. JohnA

    Rohan #2439630, posted on July 13, 2017, at 12:52 pm

    bemused
    #2439534, posted on July 13, 2017 at 10:47 am
    But that won’t stop then fear mongers. Shut down coal, gas and hope immediately. BTW, is this another tipping point?

    Yep, a lot of penguins are going to get stranded.

    O Rly? Hopefully only the ones which have (d)evolved to lose the ability to swim… 🙂

    PS: I first read the name of the shelf as “Larceny” as in theft, as in “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)

  17. pbw

    It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.

    It’s never too early, but it may be too late. The DAGW ice is getting thin.

  18. Leo G

    the Larsen C Ice Shelf size 5,800-square-kilometre
    size of antarctica 14 million km²

    Larsen C ice shelf had an area of about 45,000 square km. The section which has just separated appears to have an area of about 5,000 square km (180 km x 25km) and an average thickness significantly less than the main bulk of the rest of the shelf, so probably less than 10% of the volume.

  19. PeterF

    If Trump had not left the Paris Accord this would never have happened. When will you heretics and deniers wake up to the fact that Trump will destroy the world. The UN will have 100 billion dollars to give away when mummy’s boy has his meeting in Paris in December and we will miss out.

  20. john constantine

    Tipper Gore had the family’s first run at politica, based on whipping up hysteria against leftist music and culture and demanding State censorship of the proles.

    The family foundation has now made a financial killing by transferring their hysteria and calls for State enforced censorship to the enemies of the left.

    The left are scum, but the left is where the money is.

  21. hzhousewife

    Thanks Rafe, the giant iceberg is quite an interesting geological phenomenon to occur in our time.
    The even more fascinating thing today are the new photos of Jupiter’s Red Spot. Amazing technology.

  22. Rohan

    O Rly? Hopefully only the ones which have (d)evolved to lose the ability to swim

    Oh good, they’ll be able to swim out and catch the iceberg. Next stop, New Zealand.

    All aboard!

  23. Tel

    What happens when snow falls in Antarctica? You seriously expect it will pile up forever?!?

    Obviously it will slowly slide downhill to the ocean and then break off as a chunk of ice. This process is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

    If Clive Palmer did one useful thing it was scamming the scam artist in a public forum to demonstrate how easy it was.

  24. Louis Hissink

    Antarctica is an ice-making machine – so much ice is flowing off that it has to break off to make way for the ice flowing from the pole. Melting it is certainly not.

  25. Rayvic

    “It is probably too early to blame this event directly on human-generated climate change.”

    The ABC and Fairfax Press certainly do not think it is too early.

  26. Ad Nausium

    A nice round number for the weight of the block of ice brings the natural sceptic out in me.

    So, who weighed it, how was it peer reviewed and could the estimate be on the low side or heaven forbid the low side?

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