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Crack in Antarctic ice shelf could create one of the biggest icebergs in history

Antarctica losing ice

BERLIN — Scientists say a crack along a key floating ice shelf in Antarctica indicates that a vast iceberg is close to breaking off.

The process, known as calving, happens periodically but researchers are watching closely to see whether climate change is affecting the phenomenon.

Scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said Thursday the rift in the Larsen C ice shelf grew by 10.6 miles in six days.

This Nov. 10, 2016 aerial photo released by NASA, shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. According to NASA, IceBridge scientists measured the Larsen C fracture to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep.  John Sonntag/NASA via AP

They say the break, when it comes, could produce one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.

University of Colorado scientist Ted Scambos says the shelf appears to be breaking further back than previously recorded calvings.

Scambos adds that "This berg is telling us something has changed, and not for the better. For now, though, the ice shelf will barely notice."

Climate change is changing conditions in Antarctica at a stunning pace. In certain parts of Antarctica, scientists describe an "irreversible situation" where ice flowing into the sea is quietly raising the risk of coastal floods across the world. Penguins are struggling to survive on the rapidly warming continent, according to research released in April. In addition, Antarctica is breaking records for low levels of sea ice in what scientists say is a sign of an overheating planet. 

Thus far, 2017 is poised to be the earth's second hottest year on record.

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