Just recently, a weird incident took place. A piece of ice the size of Delaware nearly broke off from the Antarctic continent. And before scientists and researchers could begin searching for possible causes, the environment patrons of the world have linked this event to climate change.
But is it fair to blame it all on climate change? Or is there another reason this happened? Let’s find out.
In the recent past, comparatively smaller pieces of ice have been calving off from mainland Antarctica and falling into the ocean below. The size range of these pieces is from small boulders to slabs the size of planes. But even with such a huge size range, the origins of this effect were traced to the rising global temperatures.
Imagine an ice cube in the palm of your warm hand. It starts melting from the bottom. And it melts uniformly, as more and more of the cube is converted to liquid water. In a minute or so, you are holding a puddle of water in your hand.
But larger and denser pieces of ice don’t melt uniformly. Some sections of ice melt before the other and cracks are formed. These cracks propagate through the structure of the ice shelf. And then at the face of the shelf that meets the water, whole blocks of ice fall of into the ocean.
But this time, the crack is more than a 100 km long. And an ice shelf the size of the state of Delaware is about to calve from the main Antarctic shelf. The mere size of the calving has induced mass hysteria among environmentalists and the general public. And the cause behind this event has given rise to a heated debate.
But before we pin this baby on climate change, we must investigate other possible sources.
Melting due to rising temperature causes small cracks, sometimes even larger ones. Climate might have caused the 100 km long crack but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a tectonic event affecting the propagation of the crack. May be there is some undetected or unconsidered tectonic activity which is causing a crack of this scale.
Having said that, if it is proved that the crack wasn’t in fact caused by climate change, it doesn’t imply that we’re safe. Climate change is a real and persistent threat to life on this planet. This calving is certainly not the end of the world, but it is a hundred km long reminder that we need to care for our planet.