Rapid Collapse of Northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  09 Feb 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5250, pp. 788-792
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5250.788


In January 1995, 4200 square kilometers of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, broke away. Radar images from the ERS-1 satellite, complemented by field observations, showed that the two northernmost sections of the ice shelf fractured and disintegrated almost completely within a few days. This breakup followed a period of steady retreat that coincided with a regional trend of atmospheric warming. The observations imply that after an ice shelf retreats beyond a critical limit, it may collapse rapidly as a result of perturbated mass balance.

Stay Connected to Science