The Larsen C Crack-Up in Antarctica: Why It Matters

Ice shelf breaking free is a big deal, but not in the way you might think

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Photo: NASA/John Sonntag
Media Outlet: Rolling Stone

Jeff Goodell wrote for Rolling Stone on the Larsen C ice shelf breaking free from Antarctica:

So the moment is here. After months of teasing scientists who have been watching a widening crack in the ice of Antarctica via satellite cameras and surveillance aircraft, a 2,200-square-mile ice shelf known as the Larsen C has finally broken free and is now adrift in the Southern Ocean. Given that Antarctica contains enough ice to raise sea levels about 220 feet, which would drown coastal cities and make Waterworld look less like a cheesy sci-fi movie than a grim prophecy, the break-up for Larsen C is certainly a big deal.
But it's not necessarily a big deal in the way you might think. One reason the Larson C is getting a lot of attention is that it's a made-for-media crack-up, one that has played out in a visible, dramatic way over the last few months and weeks. The crack in the ice was easy to photograph, easy to understand, easy to worry about.


Jeff Goodell was a Class of 2016 & 2017 New America Fellow, working on a book about the impact of sea level rise on Miami, and other cities around the world. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of five books.