Skip to content Skip to navigation

Implications of the Larsen C collapse

Four years back, on 9th March, I watched in awe at the remnants of the Larsen B ice shelf, massive tabular icebergs that we passed at the Antarctic Sound. A small group had braved the numbing cold to gather on the top deck of the Sea Spirit at 7 AM for the Iceberg Ceremony. Legendary explorer Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both the poles was the leader of the International Antarctic Expedition 2013. He voice was barely audible in the howling wind, “Back in 2002, most people did not believe in climate change. When it started to collapse, scientists said it will take a long time, but after the cracks were first noticed, it went very fast and collapsed in less than 4 weeks. Throughout the day you will see these icebergs where they should not be. Now, you have seen climate change impacts already happening here, you must help spread the word and ensure the world leaders take decisive action before it is too late.”

My mind went back to those magical moments when I first read about the Larsen C collapse. Although long anticipated, this week will be remembered for the eventual collapse of the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica. Continuous media coverage on the widening rift on Larsen C had fuelledwidespread interest, especially with the size of the iceberg being compared to various countries and provinces in the months leading up to the final collapse.  In spite of reports to the contrary, the collapse of ice shelves and calving of glaciers is a natural process that happens all the time and individual calving events cannot be immediately attributed to climate change.

However, the collapse of Larsen C does have implications and must be seen in conjunction with the disintegration of Larsen A, B and other ice shelves during the last two decades.  The Larsen Ice Shelf is an elongated ice shelf extending along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula north of the Weddell Sea. It is named after Carl Anton Larsen the captain of a Norwegian whaling ship who sailed along the coast in 1893. The segments of the Larsen ice shelves from north to south are classified as A, B and C, and further south, Larsen D and the much smaller segments E, F and G.

Scientists studying the disintegration of the Larsen ice shelf since the 1990s describe unusual warming in the Antarctic Peninsula. The Larsen A collapsed in 1995 and the Larsen B in 2002, with 3250 km2 of the ice shelf breaking free and icebergs still adrift during my expedition 11 years later. The Wilkins Ice Shelf, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, experienced multiple disintegration events in 2008 and 2009.According to a paper published in the Journal of Climate in 2006, the Faraday station recorded a 2.94 degrees Celsius increase in temperatures from 1951 to 2004, which was more than the warming recorded across the Antarctic continent and the global trend. The researchers also linked this localized warming to anthropogenic causes and changes in wind circulation.

Scientists already knew that about marine ice sheet instability in West Antarctica where warm water not only melts the vast glaciers from below, but alsothe process where glacial retreat on the downward slopes continually exposes more ice to melting. A study last year described additional connected processes that undermine these ice shelves. Warm air, rain and meltwater causes fissures on the ice shelves leading to crevassing and hydrofracturing, and eventually these break away, leaving vertical ice cliffs. Warm water continually erodes the base of glaciers, leading to the collapse of these unstable cliffs. Scientists are certain that these processes have destabilized several glaciers in Greenland.

The 5800 square kms iceberg created from the Larsen C collapse weighs over a trillion tons, but as ice shelves are floating structures on the sea, it’s melting will never cause any sea level rise. However, these ice shelves work as buttresses, blocking enormous amounts of ice in land-based glaciers, and scientists fear that their future collapse could dump enough ice into the ocean to raise the sea level by many feet.As Robert Swan has rightly said, “The Larsen C is Mother Nature's warning flag. It's her way of saying, 'Hey, pay attention to what you're doing to the planet we all live on.” Only time will tell if we heed this desperate call to action and save the future generations from catastrophic warming.

Author info

Rituraj Phukan's picture

Rituraj Phukan is the Chief Operating Officer, Walk For Water; District Manager, Assam, Nagaland & Manipur, The Climate Reality Project India and Secretary General of Green Guard Nature Organization.

Add new comment


Republish this content

Tchoukball player’s ready for national event

17 Dec 2018 - 11:26am | AT Kokrajhar Bureau

Kokrajhar: A practice session of the Assam state Tchoukball players is underway at Haltugaon Tinali ground in Kokrajhar district to participate in the ensuing 12th senior national Tchoukball championship to be held at Sonapur in Guwahati on first week of the January(2019) next year. The Assam team is fully ready to participate in the national championship.

 Necessary preparation is underway to organise the national event with three day colourful programme scheduled which is scheduled to be held from January 4 at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education(LNIPE),Sonapur Tepesia,Guwahati. The national event has been organising by All Assam Tchoukball Sports Association.

A total 40 players are taking practice at the Haltugaon Tinali ground since December 6 and its practice would be continue till December 20 under an expert coach.Players are seeing busy in their training session while taking learning on various aspects of sporting capacity and knowledge building.

Altogether 24 states are participating the national event across the country.

Assam has so far declared its two-squad’s lists to participate the national event. The Assam team has been aiming to showcase good sporting performance in the ensuing national event which will take place in the heart of Guwhati city.

General Secretary of the association,Ashok Goyary told that the Assam state’s two-team of the Tchoukball have been named to participate in the national event beginning from  January 4 next. He said that Assam state team is fully prepared for the event with strong spirit.He has told that the national championship will held in Sonapur Tepesia. He informed that 24 states are participating,which are included Goa, Kerala, Bihar, Uttarakandh, Punjab, Delhi, Maharastra.

He has expressed his hopeful that Assam state team will showcase better results in the upcoming sports event.

‘Assam team is totally prepared for the championship. 'We hope, we will win the championship by showing our excellent game's spirits', he said.

Goyary declared two-team’s player lists for the championship. The squad for A team,includes Prem Boro,captain (Sonitpur),Twinkle Duwarah,vice captain(Biswanth),Kwrwmdao Narzary(Kokrajhar),Kampash Narzary(Kokrajhar),Anjan Gogoi(Baksa),Raju Boro(Kamrup),Jitul Boro(Kamrup),Ankan Borah(Golaghat),Ganapati Swargiyary(Golagha),Balaram Swargiyary(Golaghat),Udoy Kaklary(Golaghat),Dwimalu Basumatary(Chirang), Dilip Boro,coach(Kamrup) and Lekahram Brahma,manager(Kokrajhar).

In the B team—Newton Narzary,captain(Kokrajhar),Sanjeeb Gogoi,vice captain(Sivsagar),Manajyati Khonikar(Sivsagar),Tuphan Basumatary(Biswanath),Prakhida Kaklary(Golaghat),Bijay Basumatary(Kokrajhar),Subash Brahma(Chirang),Phungkha Brahma(Kokrajhar),Deva Narzary(Kokrajhar),Subojit Basumatary(Golaghat),Bipen Brahma(Chirang),Anjalu Narzary(Kokrajhar,Prof Sailendra Singh,coach(Guwahati) and Nagen Basumatary,manager(Golaghat).

Modi on electioneering visit to Tripura

7 Feb 2018 - 11:01am | Prasenjit Saha

AGARTALA: Electioneering gathers momentum in Tripura for the February 18 assembly polls where the main fight is expected to take place between the Left and BJP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a day long visit to the north eastern state to boost the morale of his party leaders workers and supporters on Thursday.

Talking to, party leaders said Modi is scheduled to land at the Agartala airport at 11.15 in the morning and is leaving straightly to Sonamura in Sipahijala district where he would address a hug rally.

This would be followed by another rally Kailashahar in Unakoti district 2.15 in the afternoon. At 4 in the afternoon, the prime minister is leaving back to New Delhi. The party leaders and workers in many areas are on door to door visit to woo the voters.

Party leaders said Modi’s campaign visit would be a huge boost for the party’s poll prospect which has been trying to end the 20 year long Left regime.

Kavind to take over as President

21 Jul 2017 - 10:25am | AT News

Bihar governor Ram Nath Kavind is preparing to succeed Pranab Mukherjee a day after the NDA presidential candidate won the polls defeating the united opposition candidate Meira Kumar on Thursday.

Kevind, who is putting in his papers as the Governor of Bihar is expected to take oath as the country’s 14th President.

Assan chief minister Sarbanabda Sonowal and his counterparts in the north eastern states have congratulated Kavind who would be sworn in shortly. 

Kevind got 65.65% votes in the presidential elections where 99% legislators participated in the polls held on Monday.