“Even in winter, strong winds can prevent the water beyond the shelf from freezing, so it is unclear whether the front will separate soon or hang on like a loose tooth,” NASA said.
Although the ice shelf’s collapse may sound catastrophic, IFLScience noted, there are two points worth considering:
“Firstly, ice shelves make up around 75 percent of the Antarctic coastline, and their total combined area is equivalent to 1.56 million square kilometers (603,000 square miles). If all of Nansen collapses, it will reduce Antarctica’s ice shelf coverage by just 0.1 percent.
Nansen doesn’t even register as a ‘major’ ice shelf, with those such as Ross, at around 472,000 square kilometers (182,000 square miles), dwarfing it. The Ross Ice Shelf partly collapsed at the end of the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, when a colossal chunk 280,000 square kilometers (108,000 square miles) in size fell into the sea over 1,500 years. That’s 360 times the size of Manhattan Island, by the way.
Secondly, these ice shelves may be anchored to the land, but they do not actually significantly contribute to sea level rise—after all, they’re already floating on the sea. So the collapse of Nansen by itself won’t cause much harm, per se.
However, ice shelves like Nansen do act as vast barricades for glaciers behind them. When an ice shelf is removed, glaciers begin to tumble into the sea at surprisingly fast speeds—sometimes moving ten times faster than normal—and these will definitely cause the sea level to rise. So in effect, man-made climate change is breaking Antarctica’s huge ice dams.