Larsen Ice Shelf Breakup Events

In 2002, a 3,250-square-kilometer (1,255-square-mile) section of the Larsen Ice Shelf rapidly collapsed. While Antarctic ice shelves calve large icebergs on a regular basis, such collapses are disconcerting events that have only been documented in the last 30 years. Since 1995, the Larsen Ice Shelf has lost more than 75 percent of its former area in a series of rapid disintegrations. Use the links below to learn more about events on the Larsen Ice Shelf.

To learn more about other Antarctic ice shelves, see Quick Facts on Ice Shelves, State of the Cryosphere: Ice Shelves, and Wilkins Ice Shelf Breakup Events.

21 September 2004

larsen b image showing extent in different yearsColored lines mark the Larsen B Ice Shelf edge in 1947, 1961, 1993, and 2002. —NASA MODIS image courtesy of Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.

PRESS RELEASE: Antarctic Glaciers Accelerate in Wake of Ice Shelf Breakup

Antarctic glaciers respond rapidly to climate change, according to new evidence found by NSIDC scientists. In the wake of the Larsen B Ice Shelf disintegration in 2002, glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula have both accelerated and thinned en route to the Weddell Sea.

19 March 2002

Larsen B Ice Shelf Collapses in Antarctica

Satellite imagery analyzed at NSIDC revealed that the northern section of the Larsen B ice shelf shattered and separated from the continent.

View a series of satellite images of the 2002 Larsen B breakup.

6 January 2001

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse Triggered by Warmer Summers

Research indicates that ice shelves are particularly sensitive to climate change.

22 March 2001

Monitoring of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica, Reveals Wide New Crack

Pine Island Glacier has undergone a steady loss of elevation, with retreat of the grounding line in recent decades. Satellite imagery revealed a wide crack that some scientists think will result in a calving event.

7 April 1999

Breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf: 15 February 1998 to 18 March 1999

Two ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula known as the Larsen B and Wilkins have lost nearly 3,000 square kilometers of their total area from February 1998 to March 1999. Browse images showing the evolution of the Larsen B ice shelf from February 15, 1988 to March 18, 1999.

View a series of satellite images of the 1998 to 1999 Larsen B breakup.

24 March 1998

Breakup of Larsen B Ice Shelf Underway

The Larsen B Ice Shelf began breaking up, receding past its historical minimum extent, and past the point where modeling suggested it could maintain a stable ice front. The breakup appeared closely associated with the areas over which melt ponding was observed during warmer summer seasons.

January 1995

Events in the Northern Larsen Ice Shelf and Their Importance

In late January of 1995, a large area of about 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) disintegrated into small icebergs during a storm. At the same time, farther south, a large iceberg broke off the ice shelf front. While large iceberg calving events are routine for ice shelves, disintegration is not.