A crack that could create an iceberg the size of Delaware — and destabilize one of the largest ice shelves in the Antarctic — has branched out and begun to widen more quickly, scientists say...

Located on the Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth largest in Antarctica, the new crack is an offshoot of a rupture that gained notice after growing dramatically in 2014. Last year the main crack was forecast to cause the separation of a 1,900-square-mile iceberg within years. The new fissure has turned toward the shelf’s ocean edge, potentially speeding up the iceberg’s process of breaking off.

It’s taking basically a sharp hook toward the calving front.

Dan McGrath, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a project partner with UK-based monitoring group Project Midas, which reported on the new crack on Monday

McGrath, who has studied the shelf extensively, said the combination of the new crack and the faster widening could point to an imminent separation of the berg, even as soon as this summer. The loss of so much ice would shrink the shelf by about 10 percent, leaving it with the smallest area ever recorded. It’s reasonable to link the event and the shrinking ice shelves in Antarctica to global warming, said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who is not connected with the project. An overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity — including the burning of oil, gas and coal — is the main driver of rising global temperatures.


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