Antarctica’s ice is melting faster because of climate change, an increase in Earth’s average temperature. But scientists hope that the melting can be slowed down. People around the world can help by producing fewer greenhouse gases. These gases—released when burning fuels like gasoline and coal—warm Earth’s atmosphere.
If the Larson C ice shelf crumbles completely, the consequences could be dire. Ice shelves act like plugs, slowing the flow of glaciers into the sea. Remove the plugs and the ice drains faster.
“These ice shelves are like canaries in a coal mine,” says Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine. “Once they start breaking up, it’s a sign of trouble for Antarctic ice.”
As Antarctica continues to warm, “that warming will extend farther and farther south, where there are even bigger ice shelves holding back even bigger glaciers,” predicts Rignot. Ice in West Antarctica, for instance, covers an area twice the size of Texas. If it vanishes, it will raise the sea level by roughly 10 feet, drowning coasts around the world.
“We don’t want that to happen,” says Rignot. “And we can still stop it. But we have to act now.”