Antarctic ice shelf 'hanging by thread'

July 10, 2008 5:53pm CST
New evidence has emerged that a large plate of floating ice shelf attached to Antarctica is breaking up, in a troubling sign of global warming, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday. Images taken by its Envisat remote-sensing satellite show that Wilkins Ice Shelf is "hanging by its last thread" to Charcot Island, one of the plate's key anchors to the Antarctic peninsula, ESA said in a press release. "Since the connection to the island... helps stabilise the ice shelf, it is likely the breakup of the bridge will put the remainder of the ice shelf at risk," it said. Wilkins Ice Shelf had been stable for most of the last century, covering around 16,000 square kilometres, or about the size of Northern Ireland, before it began to retreat in the 1990s. Since then several large areas have broken away, and two big breakoffs this year left only a narrow ice bridge about 2.7 kilometres wide to connect the shelf to Charcot and nearby Latady Island. The latest images, taken by Envisat's radar, say fractures have now opened up in this bridge and adjacent areas of the plate are disintegrating, creating large icebergs. Scientists are puzzled and concerned by the event, ESA added. The Antarctic peninsula - the tongue of land that juts northward from the white continent towards South America - has had one of the highest rates of warming anywhere in the world in recent decades. But this latest stage of the breakup occurred during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, when atmospheric temperatures are at their lowest. One idea is that warmer water from the Southern Ocean is reaching the underside of the ice shelf and thinning it rapidly from underneath. "Wilkins Ice Shelf is the most recent in a long, and growing, list of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula that are responding to the rapid warming that has occurred in this area over the last fifty years," researcher David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said. "Current events are showing that we were being too conservative, when we made the prediction in the early 1990s that Wilkins Ice Shelf would be lost within 30 years. The truth is, it is going more quickly than we guessed." In the past three decades, six Antarctic ice shelves have collapsed completely - Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf.
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2 responses
• United States
10 Jul 08
This might sound ridiculous, but it's such an important situatioon! Can't someone fly over these shelves and drop absolute-zero substances, making sort of a patch? No, it wouldn't stop global warming, but it could keep these glacial plates going until we find the answere.
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@angeljenn (894)
• Zaragoza, Spain
12 Jul 08
hello there to U...well, that's really a sad news...our world is now facing a global warming...your cool and informative news may indicate a sign that global warming is really getting closer and closer... I don't know who's to blame for what is happening in our world today, but maybe people can be blame for that...but that's only my opinion, i don't want to judge other people for that... But basically, global warming is really a big problem in our world today, it causes so much heat...recent human activities are enhancing the natural greenhouse effect..the concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing, therefore more infra-red radiation emitted by the Earth's surface is being trapped... Our planet is losing less heat and as a result we are experiencing global warming...certain parts of the ozone layer are becoming thinner, ozone holes have developed...the consequence of any thinning of the ozone layer is that more UV-B radiation reaches the Earth's surface... But the solution to this kind of problem is still in the hands of people...i mean they made this kind of problem but the solution is right on them too... If only people will cooperate and do some good stuffs to help stop the spreading of global warming in our Earth...regarding ozone layer depletion, people should stop the manufacture and the use of CFC's and HCFC's... They could plant lots of trees, just like me and my organizations...actually, i'm a part of those environmental youth organizations...even if i'm so very very busy having hectic schedules...i really love planting more trees, and it's really a good thing to encourage a lot of people to plant more trees for the benefits of our world... And not only that, let us all pray and ask for the help of our Almighty GOD, because without HIM, we would be we really need GOD in all our lives...there can be still a miracle for our world to be saved and free from "global warming." Wow, this is really an informative discussion, i hope lots of people can read your wonderful and fascinating discussion, so that they will open their eyes and help our "Mother Nature." You have a blessed Saturday, and may GOD BLESS U & UR family always!!!