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Earth Science

Chain Reaction Shattered Antarctica's Larson B Ice Shelf 232

New submitter Jim McNicholas writes "At the end of the summer of 2002, all 3000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained away in the space of a week. And then the 2,700-square-kilometre ice shelf, which was some 220 metres thick and might have existed for some 12,000 years, rapidly disintegrated into small icebergs. The draining of one lake on an ice shelf changes the stress field in nearby areas, causing a fracture circle to form around the lake."
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Chain Reaction Shattered Antarctica's Larson B Ice Shelf

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  • if we decided to take action BEFORE we turn ourselves into Easter Island.
    • by 32771 ( 906153 )

      Watching a train wreck while you are on the train is one hell of a show, eh?

      If a combination out of the methane feedback []
      and the lag of the temperature increase that is caused by the greenhouse effect mentioned here: []
      happens, then we may have already triggered a number of positive feed backs that will be imposs

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        I guess the real question is thus: is methane enough worse of a greenhouse gas than CO2, to warrant extracting it and burning it all just to combine it with oxygen, so that you'd get water vapor and CO2.

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          Nope. Because trying to extract it is likely to result in a major release. Methyl cathlates are a bit fragile, expecially when they get warmer. And the ocean's been warming.

          P.S.: Methyl cathlates are solid while they exist, to "extracting" them is more like underwater coal mining than drilling for oil. With the exciting additional feature that if you heat them too much, or give them too abrupt a shock, they're likely to explode. For some reason the companies that have previously looked into mining the

        • by 32771 ( 906153 )

          Actually the methane feedback is only one of the many positive feedback loops that are being discovered, there are also negative feedback loops however.
          One I have heard of is cloud formation that depends on increased availability of water vapour and the depletion of whatever carbon stock that has been
          accumulated. The cloud formation thing has been said to not be terribly effective and the depletion only happens after the methane/peat/other organic matter has been consumed.

          Collecting methane from arctic shel

  • Future? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @08:30PM (#44538725) Homepage Journal
    Ok, this happened some years ago. Is useful to predict what will happen maybe soon if there are big ice shelves in similar conditions? Are we walking in thin ice, and could happen from a week to the next that a very huge amount of water is added to the oceans? I don't think nothing of this scale will be enough to make the ocean level rise in a noticeable way, but if we are in that scenario will be pretty bad, maybe we can adapt to the oceans rising a meter in a whole century, but no that that kind of change is so fast.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, this will help cool the earth. It's basically like putting a big ice cube in the ocean every now and then.

      Haven't you seen Futurama?

    • Re:Future? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday August 11, 2013 @09:03PM (#44538875)

      "Is useful to predict what will happen maybe soon if there are big ice shelves in similar conditions?"

      This sort of thing happens all the time. It's a natural process, and the basic process hasn't changed in recorded history.

      This is a bit oversimplified, but snow is deposited on top. It builds up, and gets heavy. Gradually the snow and ice migrate sideways, pushing outward. This is also (besides gravity) what moves glaciers.

      So pieces are always breaking off the edges. The 2002 incident might have been one of the larger ones, but in the overall scheme of things is nothing very special.

      • I think the special thing about this is the speed in which it happened and of course now, the explanation to why it happened so quickly.

        I agree with your assessment of the overall scheme of things.

        • by NeoTron ( 6020 )
          Human study of this phenomenon is still in its infancy. We didn't really have the tools to observe it in the past - what's to say this isn't anything "special" at all, and that this type of event has naturally occurred many times in the past and in the same manner?
      • The 2002 incident might have been one of the larger ones, but in the overall scheme of things is nothing very special

        Let me know when something significant happens, I don't want to miss it.

    • Obligatory XKCD []

      I think I'm the first on /. to reference the whole Time series as Obligatory XKCD.
    • Re:Future? (Score:4, Informative)

      by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday August 12, 2013 @01:42AM (#44539681)

      In fact the break up of an Ice Shelf doesn't change sea level at all because an ice shelf is already floating in water. What it can do though is reduce the back pressure on the face of the ice sheet/glacier that is feeding the ice shelf causing it to speed up and put more ice in the sea which does raise sea level.

      • Wrong. An ICE SHELF sits above the water.
        I had a marine geology prof say if the Ross Ice Shelf fell, sea level would rise by 6 inches.
        That was back in the 80s when we weren't sure about global warming.
        Now that we are, it's not if the shelf falls, it is merely when it falls.
  • Incidentally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Sunday August 11, 2013 @10:19PM (#44539119) Journal
    13,000 years ago was the peak of the Holocene Optimum, when the Earth was warmer, glaciers smaller and the seas higher than today.
  • SCIENCE! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeff13 ( 255285 ) on Monday August 12, 2013 @01:15AM (#44539611) Homepage

    Yea science, seems slashdot comments are far too concerned with opinions and politics instead of science, facts, and, well evidence. Which, btw, this is actually big chunk of.

  • Wait, science... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theoriginalturtle ( 248717 ) <turtle&weightlessdog,com> on Monday August 12, 2013 @02:26AM (#44539785) Homepage

    OK, somebody fill me in, here...

    3,000 "lakes" on an ice shelf that they state was 2700km^2?

    That's a little over a thousand square miles. That's about the land area of Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is.

    3,000 "lakes?" Lolwut? You mean "ponds?" Perhaps "puddles?"

    Somebody convince me that I should be runnin' to the hills, because I'm just not feelin' it, here...

  • We got a bitchin' song about it by British Sea Power.
  • political science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by harvey the nerd ( 582806 ) on Monday August 12, 2013 @07:47AM (#44540529)
    Conclusory, political, non-factual statements included in this article. I have lost all respect for Nature.
  • Larsen not Larson. This isn't the first time I've seen these two names widely mixed up, only this time it's not widely, just timothy.

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