*NEWS*BIG CHUNK OF ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF FALLING APART

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*NEWS*BIG CHUNK OF ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF FALLING APART

 user 2008-03-26 at 1:27:27 pm Views: 75
  • #21662
    Big chunk of Antarctic ice shelf falling apart


    An iceberg breaks off from Antarctic's Knox Coast in January 2008. Satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown that Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    An
    iceberg breaks off from Antarctic’s Knox Coast in January 2008.
    Satellite images by the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice
    Data Center have shown that Antarctica’s massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has
    begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    Antarctica’s massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has
    begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming, satellite
    images by the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data
    Center showed.

    The collapse of a substantial section of the
    shelf was triggered February 28 when an iceberg measuring 41 by 2.4
    kilometers (25.5 by 1.5 miles) broke off its southwestern front.

    That movement led to disintegration of the
    shelf’s interior, of which 414 square kilometers (160 square miles)
    have already disappeared, scientists say.

    The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad plate of
    permanent floating ice 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of South
    America, on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula.

    Now, as a result of recent losses, a large part
    of the 12,950-square-kilometer (5,000-square-mile) shelf is supported
    by a narrow 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) strip of ice between two islands,
    scientists said.


    Satellite image by NASA and the US Geological Survey shows the the ice shelves, mountains and glaciers on Antarctica. Satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown that Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    Satellite
    image by NASA and the US Geological Survey shows the the ice shelves,
    mountains and glaciers on Antarctica. Satellite images by the
    University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown
    that Antarctica’s massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating
    under the effects of global warming.

    “If there is a little bit more retreat, this
    last ‘ice buttress’ could collapse and we’d likely lose about half the
    total ice shelf area in the next few years,” NSIDC lead scientist Ted
    Scambos said in a statement.

    “Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on West
    Antarctica yet to be threatened. This shelf is hanging by a thread,”
    echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey, which contributed
    data on the break-up.

    Jim Elliott, who was onboard a British
    Antarctic Survey Twin Otter aircraft sent to video the extent of the
    damage, said the scene looked like a bomb site.

    “I’ve never seen anything like this before — it was awesome,” he said in a BAS statement.

    “We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage.

    “Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small
    houses, look as though they’ve been thrown around like rubble — it’s
    like an explosion.”


    A deep crevass forms on one of Antarctica's ice shelfs. Satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown that Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    A
    deep crevass forms on one of Antarctica’s ice shelfs. Satellite images
    by the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center have
    shown that Antarctica’s massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun
    disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    Antarctica has suffered unprecedented warming
    in the last 50 years — with several ice shelves retreating and six of
    them collapsing since the 1970s.

    “Climate warming in the Antarctic Peninsula has
    pushed the limit of viability for ice shelves further south, setting
    some of them that used to be stable on a course of retreat and eventual
    loss,” Vaughan said.

    Vaughan said the Wilkins breakout would not affect sea levels because it was already floating when it broke off.

    “But it is another indication of the impact that climate change is having on the region.”

    Over the past half century, the western
    Antarctic Peninsula has experienced the steepest temperature increase
    on Earth, 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Farenheit) per decade.

    “We believe the Wilkins has been in place for
    at least a few hundred years, but warm air and exposure to ocean waves
    are causing a breakup,” said Scambos, who first spotted the
    disintegration in March.

    With the Antarctic summer drawing to a close,
    scientists do not expect the ice shelf to further disintegrate in the
    next several months.


    A climate research station in Antarctica.Satellite images by the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown that Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating under the effects of global warming.

    A
    climate research station in Antarctica.Satellite images by the
    University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center have shown
    that Antarctica’s massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun disintegrating
    under the effects of global warming.

    “This unusual show is over for this season,”
    said Scambos. “But come January, we’ll be watching to see if the
    Wilkins continues to fall apart.”

    Ultimately, ice shelf breakup in the Antarctic
    – more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) have been
    lost over the past 50 years — could significantly increase ocean
    levels around the world.

    In 1995 the Larsen A Ice Shelf — 75 kilometers
    (47 miles) long and 35 kilometers (22 miles) wide — disintegrated,
    fragmenting into icebergs in the Weddell Sea.

    In March 2002, a NASA satellite captured the
    collapse of Larsen B, which had a surface area of 3,850 square
    kilometers (1,486 square miles), was 200 meters (656 feet) high, and
    packed in 720 billion tonnes of ice. It took just 30 days to break
    apart.

    According to some calculations based on the
    present sea level rise of three millimeters per year (0.11 inches),
    ocean levels could rise by 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) by the end of the
    century.