The Collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf

A total of about 3,250 km2 of the Larsen B shelf in the Wedell Sea (Antarctica) area disintegrated in a 35-day period beginning on 31 January 2002.

Over the last five years, the shelf has lost a total of 5,700 km2, and is now about 40 percent the size of its previous minimum stable extent. Ice shelves are thick plates of ice, fed by glaciers, that float on the ocean around much of Antarctica.

The Larsen B shelf was about 220 m thick. Based on studies of ice flow and sediment thickness beneath the ice shelf, scientists believe that it existed for at least 400 years prior to this event, and likely existed since the end of the last major glaciation 12,000 years ago.