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Ross Ice Shelf crack.

Break Point

From the air, this rift in the Ross Ice Shelf might appear to be a small crack, but it is actually 300 feet wide and tens of miles long. The instability of Antarctic ice shelves is increasing—in 2002, two-thirds of the Larsen-B ice shelf disappeared in a matter of weeks. The Ross Ice Shelf is nearly ten times the size of Larsen and helps anchor even more ice on the land behind it. WHOI seismologist Ralph Stephen is collaborating with researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Washington University in St. Louis, and Colorado State University to better understand how vibrations caused by waves and tides affect the stability of ice shelves. (Photo by Laura Stevens, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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