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Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Verge of Collapse

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On March 26, 2008 @ 7:22 pm In Green Report / Media | 5 Comments

While monitoring the effects of global warming via the movement of ice shelves in the Antarctic seems a little like an overprotective mother assuming that every child’s sneeze is a direct path to pneumonia, it’s hard to ignore the fact that something is changing in the world’s seas.

Scientists recently noticed stages of disintegration in yet another enormous floating ice shelf off the Antarctic Peninsula. This time, the piece in question is the Wilkins ice shelf, a frozen formation that — in its current state — dwarfs the state of Connecticut. According to Bloomberg.com, “the Wilkins ice shelf, which lost 1,000 square kilometers (390 square miles) of ice, or about 6 percent of its surface, in 1998, calved another 570 square kilometers since February.” Which is huge — especially when you consider that these enormous blocks of nature’s ice were intended by nature to be… well, frozen.

And as these ice blocks around the peninsula’s periphery disjoin, it provides a pathway for inland ice to drift closer to the sun. And it doesn’t take a genius to calculate what happens to ice in the sun.

Still, as the New York Times points out, the frozen continent “is exhibiting a broad array of climate conditions, with some parts cooling and adding ice through accumulated snowfall, and others, like the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, potentially poised to lose large amounts of ice to the sea in coming decades.”

What’s happening to Wilkins is certainly not an ice-olated event. Six years ago in the Antarctic, the Larsen B ice shelf crumbled, turning 500 billions tons of solid frozen mass into icebergs in a matter of a month.

Scientists are hopeful the Wilkins shelf will survive until next year. But, of course, that’s not the same as optimistic.

(via New York Times and Bloomberg.com)


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